Abalone restrictions grow

Abalone restrictions grow

The control area in Limestone Coast waters established to help control the spread of Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis (AVG) through human activity has been extended to Southend with a range of restrictions in place.

The virus was confirmed in wild abalone in waters south of Port MacDonnell on February 21, the first time the disease has been found in South Australia.

A commercial abalone fisher reported dead and dying abalone at Breaksea Reef off Port MacDonnell and submitted samples to the Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) for testing.

PCR tests then confirmed AVG in the samples.

PIRSA has activated a response team and measures to contain the spread of disease have been put in place, and commercial and recreational industries have been notified.

The extension, announced on Tuesday, follows the detection of AVG at the western end of the current control area.

This will allow surveillance to determine the extent of the current spread of AVG while minimising the risk of the disease being spread by human activity.

The initial ban on all fishing activities, from shore or boat, extended from the Victorian border along the South Australian coast to Nene Valley, and 10km (5 nautical miles) out to sea, to prevent further spread of the virus by human activity.

While this control area has been extended until March 27, fishing activities will now be permitted with the following restrictions:

• No abalone, rock lobster or spear fishing.

• No reef diving.

• No use of anchors.

• Anything permitted to be taken from the area (water or beach) cannot be returned to state waters (including for use as bait)

To assist with surveillance and help limit the spread of the disease, a buffer zone has been created from Southend to the Murray Mouth and extending five nautical miles (approximately 10km) out to sea:

• All fishing activities are permitted but fishing and diving equipment must be decontaminated following PIRSA guidelines.

• Anchors must be cleaned when raised.

• Any catch can be consumed, disposed of on land or returned to the buffer zone.

Current regulations prohibit the use of abalone for bait or berley anywhere in South Australia.

Fishing limits will still apply for any approved activities in the control area and buffer zone.

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Elise Spark said failure to comply with control area or buffer zone restrictions may result in fines.

“This extension to the control area and associated restrictions is aimed at preventing human-based spread of the virus while we determine how far along the coast it has spread,” she said.

“I thank everyone who has adhered to the restrictions and played their role in protecting South Australia’s valuable abalone fishery.”

PIRSA last week announced new lobster pot collection guidelines, with holders of commercial rock lobster pot licences and recreational rock lobster registrations now able to retrieve pots within the control area under specific conditions.

However, steps are now in place to allow the retrieval of empty rock lobster pots, with any catch or other organic material such as seaweed or other marine creatures to be left at sea where the pot is retrieved.

Collections are restricted to daylight hours between sunrise and sunset; the long term window for retrieval will be decided in due course, as different factors are considered, including weather.

Lobster pot licence and registration holders have been contacted by PIRSA and must notify PIRSA before entering the control area to retrieve their pots – details of the information they must provide and how to send it to PIRSA is available at pir.sa.gov.au/avg

Dr Spark said that once boats have returned to shore, pots must be washed away from the ocean with detergent and fresh water.

“Cleaning must take place in an area where none of the washdown can re-enter the marine environment,” Dr Spark said.

“Make sure all surfaces of your pot are covered with detergent, and rinse with fresh water, before air drying all equipment for a minimum of 72 hours outside, ideally in the sun.”

A temporary decontamination station is in place for commercial fishers at Port MacDonnell, consisting of high-pressure water cleaning equipment, detergent, and supervision by PIRSA compliance officers.

Detergent, drying and sunlight together decrease the risk of spreading the disease.

“All commercial fishers must return to Port MacDonnell to decontaminate,” Dr Spark said.

“Recreational fishers may decontaminate at a suitable site where runoff is unable to return to the sea, like their home, or a carwash station.They are also able to use the Port MacDonnell facilities.”

Why wait? Get more stories like this delivered straight to your inbox
Join our digital edition mailing list and stay up to date on the latest news, events and special announcements from across the Limestone Coast.

Your local real estate guide - every Thursday


You might also like