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Abalone Catch Cut to Protect Stocks

AUSTRALIA - The total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for abalone will be reduced for the coming season to help re-build stocks in the States fisheries, according to the New South Wales Primary Industries.

Executive Director Fisheries, Compliance and Regional Relations, Doug Hocking said 90 tonnes of abalone can be taken commercially in the 2008/2009 fishing period beginning July 1 - which is 20 tonnes less than the previous season.

"The Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee, which is made up of independent experts, advised that abalone is in a severely overfished state," Mr Hocking said.

"The committee has determined the total allowable catch following its consideration of the best scientific data, information on commercial, recreational and illegal fishing catches, economic factors and industry views."

Mr Hocking said commercial catches are tightly controlled, and the NSW Government has implemented a reduction in the daily bag limit for recreational fishers from 10 to 2 abalone per day to help rebuild abalone stocks.

"The NSW Government has approved an increase in the minimum legal size limit for abalone from 115mm to 117mm, effective from 1 July 2008, to provide greater protection for spawning abalone," Mr Hocking said.

"The lower allowable catch and the new size limit are also necessary to help meet the Commonwealth Government’s requirements for the export of abalone, which specify that a recovery strategy must be developed.

"However, abalone poaching is a serious and entrenched problem, with thieves taking small abalone before they are large enough to breed and restock the reefs.

"The devastating effect that thieves are having on our abalone stocks is one of the reasons we are targeting repeat offenders," Mr Hocking said.

"Since the beginning of last year, our Fisheries Officers on the South Coast have seized more than 12,500 abalone destined for the black market.

"The Department of Primary Industries has successfully prosecuted a number of cases involving abalone theft, and officers will continue to remain vigilant in the fight to stamp out this crime.

"The Department of Primary Industries is committed to ensuring that the NSW abalone fishery remains sustainable."