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Scallop season opens tomorrow: rules reminder

Wed, 14 Jul 2004

Scallop season opens tomorrow: rules reminder

"Measure on the seabed" is the mantra scallop divers should be chanting as they take advantage of the new scallop season, which opens tomorrow.

Legally, scallops and other shellfish must be measured and sorted at the first opportunity. For divers, that is at the point of harvest, while the diver is still underwater. For those dredging, it is immediately when the dredge comes on board the boat. When divers surface they must again measure and count their catch immediately to ensure they comply with the rules relating to daily take entitlements and minimum size restrictions.

Scallop divers are not permitted to bring up large numbers of scallops for counting and sorting or "high grading" on a boat. If scallop divers fail to measure on the seabed and bring scallops to the surface they risk prosecution and the possibility that their vessels will be confiscated.

Measuring on the bottom is simple. There are a number of suitable 'rings' on the market and any scallop that fits through the ring is undersized.

Daily limit and minimum size Scallop gatherers must observe the daily limit per diver of 20, except in the Challenger area, where the daily legal limit is 50 per diver. The minimum size is 100mm except in the Challenger area, where the minimum size is 90mm.

Boat trips The Ministry of Fisheries is often asked how many scallops several fishers, travelling on board a boat for more than one day, can take. The key point to remember here is that daily limits apply to individuals, but those who have a daily limit must have participated in the fishing activity, and cannot be a spectator or driving the boat.

To give an example, if several people are on a boat using a dredge to fish for scallops, anyone who takes any scallops up to the daily limit of 20 scallops per person must have been involved in setting, retrieving, sorting and so forth, and cannot be a spectator or driving the boat. If a diver takes the scallops, they cannot take scallops for anyone else on board the boat.

It is an offence to be in possession of more than the daily limit. A defence is available, however, if the fisher can prove the fish were taken legally. This means that the onus of proof rests with the fisher to prove to a Fishery Officer that the accumulated total was not all taken on the same day. MFish suggests: * Separately bag and label each fisher's daily catch * Record the catch date to distinguish the days fished * Record the fisher's name, to identify the taker.

Separately bagging and tagging each fisher's catch applies to each day of fishing, as well as during the communal storage and unloading at the end of the trip.

In the shell Those gathering scallops should also remember that it is illegal to possess scallops at sea out of the shell, so it would therefore be illegal to open and cook scallops on board a vessel.

Season end The scallop season ends on 14 February 2005.

ENDS

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