What are Pipis:
Pipis (Donax (Plebidonax) deltoides & known as the Goolwa cockle in South Australia) are a small
bivalve clam found burrowed in the sand of high energy intertidal surf zone of beaches, filter feeding
on microscopic phytoplankton matter from the water. They require heavy surf zones to provide oxygen
to the water to survive. Pipis can die off if the waters are too calm over long periods.
Pipis are fast breeders, taking about 10 months to a year to mature - maturity size is around 37mm.
50% of the 37mm pipis are sexually mature & are able to breed - proof that size & maturity does matter!
Size limits are set in Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia & New Zealand with large fines if catches are undersize. They are dioecious serial broadcast spawners, which happens all year round & generally peaks over spring. Larvae drifts for 4 to 8 weeks in the coastal currents, & can travel large distances.
Current Venus Bay Fishing limits & regulations:
- In shell - 2 litres per person
- Without shell - 1/2 litre per person
- There is no limit of clam size - all can be harvested
- There is capped limit of a total catch i.e. 10 people can legally take 20 litres while 20 people can take 40 litres etc.
- Children under 18 years & adults over 60 years do not need a fishing licence.
- There is no seasonal restriction, harvesting can occur throughout the year
How important are Venus Bay Pipis...
They are an important source of food for fish, rays & shorebirds, & an essential food source for some migratory birds. See the Birdlife Australia letter, titled "Pipi (Donax spp.) harvesting as a key threatening process for shorebirds" - see link for details
Commercial v's Recreational harvesting
Victorian National Parks Association recently released a report on the impact of recreational fishing "Recreational Fishing - Not off the Hook" - see link for detailsCommercial fishing is much easier to manage due to the mandatory recording of catches. Recreational fishing is currently difficult to manage for many species, including pipis, as records are not being kept & limited data is available about the total catch.
Research for Venus Bay, Cape Liptrap Coastal Park:
Department of Economic Development Jobs Transport & Resources (DEDJTR)/Fisheries Research:
Fisheries/DEDJTR have conducted two studies (see links below for combined report), where they concluded that the current recreational practice is sustainable. The two surveys reported that current harvesting could be sustainable however continued monitoring is required, Zac Lewis advised a size limit to implemented. Please use contact page if you require PDF copies of the individual research papers by Zac Lewis or Jacinta Early.
In July 2013 a local community group commissioned an independent report by Marine Ecological Solutions Pty Ltd based on information from the two DEDJTR/Fisheries studies. Dr Greg Parry, Director, is a marine ecologist with many years experience working with the DEDJTR/Fisheries. This new report substantiates concerns raised about the sustainability of the current harvest, & provides management recommendations that would make the harvest more sustainable.
In a community news letter Dr Parry states that “As neither Lewis (2010) nor Early et al. (2013) provide any analysis of temporal changes in population size, or any estimate of the total recreational catch, it is unclear how they were able to conclude this fishery is sustainable”.
Independent Research 2013:
A local community group, assisted by the Victorian National Parks Association commissioned an urgent Pipi Stock Count to ascertain the current pipi population. It was found that over 10klm of Venus Bay accessible beach area the pipi biomass was only at 25%, which means that Venus bay has lost 75% of pipi population in this area. All the remaining pipis in this area are under size & immature. This report was presented to Fisheries in 2014, who are still yet to act. Dr Greg Parry advised that continued monitoring is essential to obtain a full picture of pipi sustainability at current harvesting levels. In July 2014 Fisheries refused a 3year grant to further monitoring of pipis at Venus Bay Beaches.
NSW pipi issues:
NSW pipi numbers have dropped to near extinction on some of their beaches. They now have restrictions in place where you can only use what you need on the beach for recreational fishing. You cannot take pipis off the beach. It is uncertain why NSW pipi stock has dwindled. Many beaches had very similar recreational over harvesting that Venus Bay is experiencing. NSW has continuous yearly reporting & surveying of their pipi stock for their recreational & commercial harvesting.
SA have managed their pipi population well even with
commercial licences. They have well documented survey
counts & acted when the stocks were low.
SA have a closed season.
"If we use all our resources today, we will have nothing left for tomorrow..."