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Rapid response to abalone virus depletion in western Victoria: information acquisition and reef code assessment

Gorfine, H., Day, R., Bardos, D., Taylor, B., Prince, J., Sainsbury, K. and Dichmont, C. (2008) Rapid response to abalone virus depletion in western Victoria: information acquisition and reef code assessment. The University of Melbourne

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Future management of disease-affected abalone must adapt to the changing circumstances, and adopting a precautionary approach will allow maximum potential for stock recovery. This approach is mandated by the observation that no documented examples are known of abalone populations recovering from catastrophic impacts such as have occurred in the abalone fisheries of Victoria's Western and Central zones. Indeed the balance of international evidence points towards the contrary, so these fisheries are in dangerous territory. This need not mean that recovery cannot occur.

However, the modelling results from this project confirm the above precautionary view and suggest that unless it is known with certainty that disease-induced mortalities have been moderate (less than 40%), then any resumption of fishing in the near term risks the future of the fishery. Acquisition of accurate mortality data is the only basis upon which fishing can recommence in the short term (within 5 years) and in many instances, such as for some among those reefs considered in our study, the opportunity has passed. The simulation results provide guidance, but their validity is conditional on myriad assumptions as well as on the accuracy of data employed. We already know that catches early in the fishery’s history were higher than reported officially, but how much higher is conjecture. Growth is highly variable over small spatial scales and feedback effects from reduced abundance together with changed size structure and persistence of habitat will play roles in determining the rate, if any, of recovery. The extent of the contemporary illegal catch is uncertain, particularly given the unprecedented closure of the fisheries. The results show that even small illegal catches can significantly degrade recovery where the viral impact is high, with clear implications for the enforcement aspects of managing these fisheries.

Item Type: Report
Series Name: FRDC Report 07/066
Publisher: The University of Melbourne
Copyright: © Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and The University of Melbourne. 2008
Notes: July 2008
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