Where have all the PIPIS gone?
This is a common question that I have been asked over the last few years, with this year being the most frequent by harvesters, locals & visitors.
The change in the pipi population that many of the long term locals & visitors have witnessed has been from an abundance to a famine. There was a time 20-50 years ago where you couldn't move your feet in the sand or dig a hole without finding hundreds of pipis from 4cm, 5cm sometimes larger - it was absolutely amazing. We would witness people leaving the beach with bags & esky's full of pipis, with the idea that they will always be there.
There was a steady decline in population beginning around the late 1980, early 1990 to 2010, but when word got our around 2011-2012 about the abundance of pipis at Venus Bay, we experienced in influx of harvesters which caused the biggest diversion within our community groups. Many of us were labeled as racist for trying to protect the ecosystem of our beaches. We could see the devastating long term impact of this type of recreational fishing & its effect on our pipi population, which was backed up by prior & current research of Venus Bay, other States & Countries showing areas being 'fished out' by this type of behaviour - why couldn't Fisheries & the VIC Government see this too? Instead they pushed back on the Venus Bay Community, manipulated research to suit their agenda for revenue, point blank called the Venus Bay Community 'racists', & even gave us lessons in cultural diversity so we wouldn't be racist. It was a very stressful time for many locals.
After the influx of recreational fishing, the Vic Government opened Venus Bay up to commercial harvesting which had a minor impact compared to the recreational fishing, & within less than a decade Venus Bay is down to very few remaining pipis, and all of small size (which can still be harvested). Seeing pipis in the waves has become like trying to find a needle in a haystack - very disheartening.
This is such a mismanagement, shame & a crime to the biodiversity of our beaches, & will always be known to us as another State Government disaster caused by their own small sighted views & agenda's. If this was managed better, there could have been pipis for all until the end of time.
Many harvesters have moved on to other beaches to cause the same issues as we have seen. It is an all too common sight within our State & Country, we should have learnt by other States who had the same issue, SA acted & recovered, where NSW was like us & acted too slow.
"It's not about who's harvesting, it's about the inappropriate amount of pipis being harvested."
Venus Bay is one of a few beaches in Victoria that supports a population of pipis (Donax (Plebidonax) deltoides). These small clams are important to the eco system & food chain.
Venus Bay is a small coastal community with limited infrastructure & each year is swamped by thousands of day trippers to harvest pipis. Pipi harvesting has been an escalating issue for the Venus Bay Community for over 25 years...not only for the impact on the community & infrastructure but for the over harvesting of pipis & damage to be bio-diversity of the environment.
The Victorian Government department The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) manage the regulations of pipi harvesting & fishing licenses. To date they have conducted several studies, which they use to promote the current pipi harvesting as sustainable. The last study concluded that the current harvest level is sustainable even though the majority of the current pipis are small & immature. An independent report by an experience marine ecologist released in 2013 concludes that the current harvest practices may not be sustainable.