Invertebrate Dive Fisheries Can Be Sustainable: Forty Years of Production from a Greenlip Abalone Fishery off Southern Australia
The South Australian greenlip abalone (Haliotis laevigata) fishery was established in 1964, and commercial catches have been stable at approximately 350 t.yr−1 for over 20 years. This contrasts the status of fisheries for abalone outside Australasia, where rapid over-exploitation and stock collapse, without recovery, have been widespread. This study of the sustainability of the South Australian greenlip abalone fishery is based on a range of fishery-dependent and fishery-independent data, and it contrasts with a previous assessment based on fewer data that suggested these stocks were overfished. This fishery's success demonstrates that prolonged harvests can be obtained from wild abalone stocks. Key elements of the management system critical in preventing over-exploitation include early limitations on access to the resource, establishment of appropriate minimum legal sizes, and effective controls on total catches. A biological research program that focused explicitly on stock assessment and underpinned timely adjustments to management arrangements based on changes in stock status has also been critical. Recommendations by fisheries management committees involving resource managers, scientists, industry members, and other stakeholders have been underpinned by formal management plans. Sustainability of benthic invertebrate fisheries vulnerable to overfishing could be enhanced by adopting elements of the management system underpinning the South Australian abalone fishery since 1968.
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