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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 858

Senator PETER RAE(11.09) — Briefly, I wish to talk about a matter which involves the destruction of the scallop industry of Tasmania. Today I was concerned to hear the answer given by Senator Walsh to a question asked of him by Senator Tate in relation to the Tasmanian scallop industry in which it was confirmed that it has now been agreed that an area of new beds found off north-eastern Tasmania will be opened from 8 October-that is, today-until 28 October, by which time most of the large scallops could have been taken, given the large number of boats expected to be fishing the beds. That is a direct quote from the information provided by Senator Walsh.

The scallop industry has had a very chequered history. It involves a very heavy investment by the individual fisherman concerned. It involves a high degree of management of the scallop beds to ensure that there is not destruction of the scallop beds and therefore the scallop industry. That result has substantially been the result in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and other areas off Tasmania. A plea has come from the scallop branch of the Professional Fishermen's Association of Tasmania that the ratification of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of Tasmania and Victoria be expedited. The association feels very strongly that if the closed area is reopened before the offshore constitutional settlement becomes law, with no size or bag limits imposed, the beds will be completely decimated, perhaps beyond recovery, as has happened in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.

The answer given today by Senator Walsh was surprising. The offshore constitutional settlement is likely to take some months to conclude. Everybody hopes that if the beds are to be opened for this period of 20 days, as has been agreed, there will be very strict policing to ensure that none of the undersized beds are fished by any boats operating in that area. At the same time, every possible step should be taken to expedite the discussions between Victoria and Tasmania in which all of the elements of the offshore contitutional settlement can be concluded so that the fears for the destruction of the scallop beds can be removed and proper management plans can be introduced.

The fear of warfare breaking out between the Victorian and Tasmanian scallop fishermen has been receiving quite a lot of publicity, but I will not comment on the degree to which that was extreme. Very strong feelings were engendered, particularly so far as the Tasmanian fishermen were concerned, who saw it as their waters, not far from St Helen's. The idea of the larger boats from Lakes Entrance in Victoria coming in and cleaning out the new scallop beds in a matter of days was something which raised the fears and concerns of any normal person.

I first mentioned this matter when it blew up on the weekend of 17 August. I contacted Dr Bain of the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry. He assured me that steps would be taken and advice would be given to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) which would protect these beds. He discussed the matter at that time with Mr Wilson of the Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority and said he believed that they would be protected. The beds are open now and I trust that every step will be taken to protect the small beds and to finalise the matter without any further delay or raising of hackles between the fishermen of the two States. I hope that the Government can organise the finalisation of this matter as soon as possible. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to make those remarks and I hope that they will be passed on to the Minister.