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Blacklip Abalone (2018)

Haliotis rubra rubra

  • Craig Mundy (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania)
  • Lachlan Strain (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, Western Australia)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)
  • Rowan Chick (Department of Primary Industries, New South Wales)
  • Stephen Mayfield (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Ben Stobart (South Australian Research and Development Institute)

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Summary

Blacklip Abalone is harvested in NSW, SA, TAS and VIC, with twelve management zones. Stocks are sustainable in four zones, depleting in 6 zones and depleted in 2 zones.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
South Australia South Australia Central Zone Fishery SACZF Depleted Catch, CPUE 
South Australia South Australia Southern Zone Fishery SASZF Sustainable Catch, CPUE, survey density
South Australia South Australia Western Zone Fishery SAWZF Depleting Catch, CPUE, survey density
SACZF
South Australian Central Zone Fishery (SA)
SASZF
South Australian Southern Zone Fishery (SA)
SAWZF
South Australia Western Zone Fishery (SA)
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Stock Structure

There are substantial difficulties in applying classical stock assessment models to abalone resources, given the possibly large number of stocks in each fishery. In some regions Haliotis rubra rubra also displays spatially variable growth rates and maturity curves. All jurisdictions therefore rely on indicators and empirical performance measures, primarily catch and catch per unit effort (CPUE; as kg of abalone harvested per hour). CPUE from individual fishing events is relevant locally but not indicative of status broadly [Parma et al. 2003], and status of the many populations in a management unit cannot be assumed to be trending in the same direction. Thus, the average CPUE across each spatial reporting unit provides the broader perspective for fishery assessment. The annual catch by Blacklip Abalone fisheries is generally close to the established total allowable commercial catches (TACCs), with little over-catch or under-catch of the TACC. In some jurisdictions, additional fishery-independent data (density, size composition) are available from underwater research surveys.

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Stock Status

There are substantial difficulties in applying classical stock assessment models to abalone resources, given the possibly large number of stocks in each fishery. In some regions Haliotis rubra rubra also displays spatially variable growth rates and maturity curves. All jurisdictions therefore rely on indicators and empirical performance measures, primarily catch and catch per unit effort (CPUE; as kg of abalone harvested per hour). CPUE from individual fishing events is relevant locally but not indicative of status broadly [Parma et al. 2003], and status of the many populations in a management unit cannot be assumed to be trending in the same direction. Thus, the average CPUE across each spatial reporting unit provides the broader perspective for fishery assessment. The annual catch by Blacklip Abalone fisheries is generally close to the established total allowable commercial catches (TACCs), with little over-catch or under-catch of the TACC. In some jurisdictions, additional fishery-independent data (density, size composition) are available from underwater research surveys.

Tasmania

The Tasmanian abalone fishery has been quota managed with an annual TACC since 1985, and up to 1999 there was a single Tasmanian TACC that did not differentiate between species or area. In response to increased regional fishing pressure through the late-1990s, separate TACCs for Greenlip Abalone and Blacklip Abalone were implemented in 2000, and the Blacklip Abalone fishery was divided into two zones: Eastern Blacklip, Western Blacklip. In addition, finer-scale reporting of fishing within sub-blocks was introduced. Further spatial partitioning of the Tasmanian Blacklip Abalone fishery occurred in 2001, with the northern areas of the Eastern and Western Zone classified as a Northern Blacklip Zone. In 2003, the Northern Zone was split into two zones (Northern Blacklip and Bass Strait Blacklip) with different size limits. In 2009, the Western Blacklip Zone was split into Western Blacklip and Central West Blacklip zones. In 2013 the boundary between the Western and Central West Blacklip zones was moved northwards.

A live export market established in the early 1990s increasing rapidly to take the majority of the catch by the early 2000s. More than 65 per cent of the total Tasmanian wild abalone harvest is now exported live to Asia, with the remaining fraction processed in canned or frozen form. Since the development of the live export market the beach price for abalone destined for live export has been marginally higher than for processed export markets. This price difference has substantially altered fishery dynamics and created significant assessment and management challenges for the past two decades. Initially the margin between live and processed export product was approximately $2/Kg. In 2017 the beach price for export quality live abalone was almost double the beach price for canned product, exacerbating challenges around avoiding spatially concentrated catch within quota years as fishers, processors and investors seek to maximise profits.

An empirical harvest strategy (HS) was developed for the Tasmanian abalone fisheries in 2014–15 and tested using Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) [Buxton et al. 2015, Haddon et al. 2014, Haddon and Mundy 2016]. The HS was trialled in the Tasmanian abalone fishery assessment in 2015 and 2016, jointly with the previous ad hoc approach, and used as the basis of TACC decisions in 2017 [Mundy and McAllister 2018]. The HS assesses the fishery performance against target reference points for three performance measures (PM) derived from standardised CPUE (SCPUE) data: current CPUE relative to an agreed target (55th percentile of the annual standardised mean CPUE within the reference period); the four year gradient of CPUE (target gradient is zero); and the per cent change in CPUE in the past year (target change is zero). The reference period is adaptive, including all years from 1992 onwards. A scoring function is applied to the three PMs resulting in a score between zero and 10, where five is the target PM value and zero and 10 are the zone-wide lowest and highest values for that PM within the reference period. In the 2017 assessment, weightings were also applied to the three PMs at 065:0.25:01 respectively, as part of the control rule used to set the TACC from the performance measure scores. The HS is applied individually to each statistical reporting block, and a zone score is obtained from the mean block score weighted by block catch.

The zone target CPUEPM score is used as a proxy for biomass and the zone gradient SCPUE PM score is used as a proxy for fishing mortality. These proxies were developed specifically to meet the requirements of the SAFS assessment and reporting process, as a decision tool for determining when a fishery has transitioned across the threshold between two SAFS categories (e.g. depleting to depleted). However, these are relative indicators (detecting change over time) and are not considered to be indicative of actual biomass.

A target CPUE score of one is used as the limit reference point (LRP) defining the boundary between depleted and depleting for all Tasmanian management units. This LRP is typically five per cent above the lowest CPUE observed within the zone during the reference period. A negative zone gradient score gives evidence that fishing mortality is increasing, and the magnitude of the zone gradient provides some information on the magnitude of fishing mortality. The four year gradient PM score spans a possible range of negative five to positive five, giving a target reference point of zero, defining the boundary between sustainable and transitional–depleting classifications. The combination of a negative CPUE gradient and near-record low CPUE score represents a cautious proxy for the true recruitment overfished reference point. No reporting blocks have become depleted under this decision rule within the reference period, providing a degree of confidence that the LRP will prevent stock collapse, as predicted by MSE testing of the HS.

The draft Tasmanian Abalone Fishery Management Plan requires that size limits be established that protect abalone for two breeding seasons post-reproductive maturity. Research programs to obtain empirical data representing the geographic variability in growth rates and size at reproductive maturity have been underway since 1985, resulting in a range of LML regulations within the Tasmanian Blacklip Abalone fisheries ranging from 110–145 mm.

South Australia

In South Australia, the current harvest strategy in the Management Plan for the commercial abalone fishery [PIRSA 2012] produces a catch weighted determination of stock status for the fishing zone. However, the harvest strategy does not (1) identify performance indicators or reference points for classifying the fishery under the Status of Australian Fish Stocks framework; or (2) deliver a stock status consistent with fishery performance [Burnell et al. 2016, Stobart et al. 2016]. Concerns with the harvest strategy have resulted in a review currently underway. Consequently, in this assessment, a weight-of-evidence approach based on a range of indicators is used. Nominal commercial catch rates (CPUE based on meat weight in the Central and Western Zone management units and shell [whole] weight in the Southern Zone management unit), and densities from fishery-independent surveys, are used as the primary indices of relative South Australia Blacklip Abalone abundance [Burnell et al. 2016, Dowling et al. 2004, Shepherd and Rodda 2001, Stobart et al. 2016, Tarbath et al. 2014].

South Australia Central Zone Fishery

In 2018, the South Australia Central Zone Fishery (SACZF) was voluntarily closed by industry following successive determinations of depleting stock status since 2013. The TACC was reduced from 6.4 t (meat weight) in 2017 to zero for the 2018 fishing year. The most recent assessment for the SACZF was completed in 2018, reporting up to the conclusion of the 2017 season [Burnell et al. 2018]. The key indicator for biomass and fishing mortality is commercial catch rate (nominal CPUE). A long-term decline in CPUE has been evident since the mid-2000s, despite a reduction in TACCs [Burnell et al. 2018]. Recent catches of 6.2 t and 5.8 t in 2016 and 2017, respectively, were at the lowest levels since 1985 and below the TACC. Since 2015, CPUE has declined substantially, declining by 15 per cent between 2015 and 2016 and by a further 12 per cent between 2016 and 2017 – a decrease of 26 per cent in the CPUE for Blacklip Abalone in the SACZF over two years. The CPUE in 2017 was 18.3 kg per hour, which was the lowest catch rate on record (38 years) and 12 per cent below the next lowest value. The declines in catch rate, despite the reduced catches, indicate that recent recruitment levels have been substantially below those that have historically supported substantially larger catches. There has also been an apparent spatial contraction of the fishery, principally into the south-western corner of Kangaroo Island, from a previously broader spatial distribution across the south coast of Kangaroo Island. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is likely to be depleted and that recruitment is likely to be impaired. On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South Australia Central Zone Fishery management unit is classified as a depleted stock.

South Australia Southern Zone Fishery

In response to a depleting stock status from 2013–14 onwards, the TACC in the South Australia Southern Zone Fishery (SASZF) was reduced from 151 t to 126 t (whole weight) for 2015–16. The most recent assessment for the SASZF was completed in 2018 and reported up to the conclusion of the 2016–17 season (Ferguson et al. 2018). Determining the stock status for 2016–17 was challenging because the data show conflicting trends among spatial assessment units (SAUs), further complicated by recent changes in the management arrangements, including the introduction of finer spatial management from 2013, varying minimum legal lengths across years, the small fleet size and diver changeover, and effects of weather conditions on fishing behaviour [Ferguson et al. 2018]. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are commercial catch rate (CPUE) and fishery-independent surveys of legal-size density. The zonal CPUE for Blacklip Abalone in the SASZF in 2016–17 was 99.5 kg per hour, which was substantially greater than the long-term average of 91.2 kg per hour (1979–80 – 2015–16). The CPUE has also been relatively stable for the past four fishing seasons, following a decline between 2010–11 and 2012–13. Estimates of legal-sized density from fishery-independent surveys have been stable or shown small increases in recent years. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South Australia Southern Zone Fishery management unit is classified as a sustainable stock.

South Australia Western Zone Fishery

In response to a depleting stock status from 2013 onwards, the TACC in the South Australia Western Zone Fishery (SAWZF) was reduced from 89.9 t to 74.6 t (meat weight) in 2016. The total catch was further reduced through a voluntary reduction in catch by the commercial sector from 2015 onwards [Stobart et al. 2017]. The total catch decreased from 82.4 t in 2014 to 66.8 t in 2017, being reduced by 35 per cent from higher, stable catch levels averaging 103 t over the decade ending 2009. The most recent assessment for the SAWZF was completed in 2018 and reported up to the conclusion of the 2017 season [Stobart et al. 2018]. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are commercial catch rate (CPUE) and fishery-independent surveys of legal-sized density. The CPUE for Blacklip Abalone in the SAWZF increased from 22.7 kg per hour in 1979 to more than 31 kg per hour in 2006, the highest level on record. Subsequently, CPUE has decreased each year and, in 2017, was 22.2 kg per hour, 29 per cent below the peak in 2006 and the lowest value on record. With two exceptions, this long-term declining trend occurred across all of the high and medium importance spatial assessment units (SAUs) for the fishery [Stobart et al. 2018]. Estimates of legal-sized density from fishery-independent surveys show general decreases in recent years, matching the decline in CPUE. There is no evidence that the declines in CPUE have been arrested despite the reduced catch. The above evidence indicates that, for the period from 2006 to 2017, the biomass declined and that the current level of fishing mortality is likely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the South Australia Western Zone Fishery management unit is classified as a depleting stock.

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Biology

Blacklip Abalone biology [Officer 1999, Shepherd 1973, Tarbath et al. 2001, Tarbath and Officer 2003]

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Blacklip Abalone 20–50 years, 150–220 mm SL  ~ 5 years, 80–130 mm SL  
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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Blacklip Abalone

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Tables

Fishing methods
South Australia
Commercial
Diving
Indigenous
Diving
Recreational
Diving
Management methods
Method South Australia
Commercial
Limited entry
Size limit
Total allowable catch
Indigenous
Bag limits
Size limit
Recreational
Bag limits
Size limit
Active vessels
South Australia
6 in SASZF, 22 in SAWZF
SASZF
South Australian Southern Zone Fishery (SA)
SAWZF
South Australia Western Zone Fishery (SA)
Catch
South Australia
Commercial 17.50t in SACZF, 119.31t in SASZF, 200.51t in SAWZF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 0.1t
SACZF
South Australian Central Zone Fishery (SA)
SASZF
South Australian Southern Zone Fishery (SA)
SAWZF
South Australia Western Zone Fishery (SA)

New South Wales – Indigenous (Management Methods) (a) The Aboriginal cultural fishing authority is the authority that Indigenous persons can apply to take catches outside the recreational limits under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW), Section 37 (1d)(3)(9), Aboriginal cultural fishing authority; (b) In cases where the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) applies fishing activity can be undertaken by the person holding native title in line with S.211 of that Act, which provides for fishing activities for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs. In managing the resource where native title has been formally recognised, the native title holders are engaged with to ensure their native title rights are respected and inform management of the State's fisheries resources.

Victoria Indigenous (Management Methods) In Victoria, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. Victorian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence. Traditional Owners that have agreements under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) may also be authorised to fish without the requirement to hold a recreational fishing licence. Outside of these arrangements, Indigenous Victorians can apply for permits under the Fisheries Act 1995 (Vic) that authorise fishing for specific Indigenous cultural ceremonies or events (for example, different catch and size limits or equipment).

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Blacklip Abalone - note confidential catch not shown

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References

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  2. Burnell, O, Mayfield, S, Ferguson, G and Carroll J 2016, Central Zone Abalone (Haliotis laevigata & H. rubra) Fishery. Fishery Assessment Report for PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. 2016.
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  5. Ferguson, G, Mayfield, S and Hogg, A 2018, Status of the Southern Zone Blacklip (Haliotis rubra) and Greenlip (H. laevigata) Abalone Fisheries in 2016/17. Report for PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide. SARDI Publication No. F2014/000359-3. SARDI Research Report Series No. 985. 29pp.
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