A NEW threat is concerning Tasmanian scallop fishermen. Scallop Fishermen’s Association of Tasmania Chairman John Hammond said imported product from America was a new worry for Tasmanian businesses already operating on significantly reduced quotas.

While Tasmania did not directly import the US product, it was permitted interstate and could then be transferred between states, a Department of Agriculture spokesman said. No data was kept on interstate transactions. “The American scallops, which look nice and white but don’t have the roe like ours do, started coming in last month, which is unfortunate,” Mr Hammond said. “Our scallop industry is constantly competing against cheap imports. “Countries like Chile, Peru, China and now America supply farmed and wild caught product.”

The Department spokesman said US imports to Australia were relatively small. “For 2013-14 to 2017-18 scallop imports by value mostly came from China (55 per cent of total imports) and Japan (20 per cent). Canada was the third largest country of origin (7 per cent) and was slightly ahead of the US (7 per cent),” the spokesman said.

Mr Hammond said a push was on to encourage Tasmanians to buy local. “Our cost of production is far greater than countries that we are competing with (licence fees, boat survey costs, insurance, maintenance, crew costs and wages), our processors also have higher costs of production,” he said. “All our industry can do is provide a superior quality product and hope that the consumer is prepared to buy local, knowing that it is coming from pristine waters and a well-managed sustainable fishery employing local people and companies – truck drivers, processors, splitters, crew etc.”

Mr Hammond said consumers in Australia had no way of knowing if other countries had sustainable fishing practices. In comparison, Mr Hammond said the Tasmanian fishery was very well managed. He said all Tasmanian waters – 20 nautical miles from Tasmania’s coast – have been closed to commercial fishing for the last three years and would remain closed for a further year to enable stocks to rebuild. Scallop fishermen were instead operating in the Bass Strait area, off shore from King Island, which is managed by the Commonwealth Government’s Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). It has set a Total Allowable Catch for this season of 4000 tonnes. Mr Hammond said surveys had been conducted recently to determine the annual biomass estimates – with 48,000 tonnes of stock in the water. “We have a very conservative catch limit which shows that we are sustainable,” he said. The Bass Strait Scallop season will launch into full swing in mid-July. A small amount of survey product is already available for sale.