Concern over pipi harvesting

COMMERCIAL harvesting of pipis is allowed on the mid-section of South Ballina Beach.

Local fishermen have expressed concerns after commercial harvesters were seen working on the beach over the weekend.

"I was worried because it was my understanding that the moratorium had been lifted on most beaches, but that it was still in place for South Ballina," one fisherman said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries yesterday confirmed that "large areas" of the beach remained closed to commercial pipi harvesting, but that restrictions on the mid-section had been lifted.

"Survey work was done on that beach before the closure was lifted in June and found ample, large patches of large pipis," the spokesperson said.

"The beach is now open from the access road for about 13km, to about south from the Broadwater Beach access point.

The beach is closed to pipi harvesting from the South Ballina breakwall south to the entrance onto the beach that comes off Patches Beach Road.

A new minimum size limit of 45mm now applies to commercial harvesters.

They are also restricted to a daily take of 40kg.

However the DPI spokesperson said fishing records from June - which are the only ones available since the moratorium was lifted at the end of May - showed there had been no reports of fishing pipis during that month on South Ballina Beach.

Penalties apply for taking or possessing pipis in contravention of a closure.

The fines range from a $500 on the spot fine to a maximum penalty of $22,000 or six months jail, or both, for a first offence.