Surveys completed independent of fishing are used to advise management of abalone fisheries in most states, although they are often expensive and struggle to provide a representative description of stocks throughout a fishery. Although such surveys have been completed in NSW for over 10 years, it has not been possible to collect representative information throughout the fishery because of their prohibitive cost. Very limited information is available about stocks in northern areas of the fishery, and following Perkinus-related mortality, a series of closures were introduced from 2002, so that by 2007 over 1000 km of coast was closed to fishing.
As a consequence, there were large reductions in TAC and GVP of the commercial Industry and its profitability. Further, there has been very little information available to assess stocks in the closed area, leading to great uncertainty about the status of stocks and their future productive ability.
Following development of a Structured Fishing Program, an Industry-based survey of the previously closed area was commenced in September 2008. The program involves a system of catch targets and caps for different areas to ensure the appropriate distribution of catch, and a Memorandum of Understanding and Strategic Research Plan, to ensure representative information about stocks is collected.
There is a strong need to take advantage of the Structured Fishing Program to further develop techniques of cost-effective data collection, survey design and analysis. If these improved methods could be developed, they could also be rolled out more extensively throughout the fishery in NSW, and other abalone fisheries. Such methods have the potential to improve profitability of the Industry, by both providing a cost-effective and reliable method of collecting finer-scale information about stocks, and by allowing an audit of the resource to enable Industry to fish-to-market.