Abalone fishing is a popular activity in New South Wales, with the blacklip abalone being the primary species harvested from rocky reefs by divers.
While most commercial abalone fishing takes place on the south coast of NSW, there are now limited opportunities for recreational fishing in previously closed areas.
In this article, we’ll explore where to catch abalone in NSW and provide tips for finding these elusive creatures.
So grab your gear and get ready to dive into the world of abalone fishing!
Where To Catch Abalone In Nsw?
Abalone can be found in various locations along the NSW coastline, but the most popular areas for commercial and recreational fishing are from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border.
Recently, the NSW Department of Primary Industries has reopened a previously closed stretch of coastline from Port Stephens to Botany Bay for limited commercial and recreational abalone fishing. This area had been closed due to concerns about depleted stocks and the impact of the Perkinsus virus, but consistent reports of increased numbers of abalone have led to its reopening.
When searching for abalone, it’s important to look for rocky reefs with plenty of cover where they can hide. Generally, abalone can be found in less than 10 metres of water, and you may need to move kelp and other marine growth to spot them.
It’s also crucial to take note of weather conditions before diving. Only dive if appropriate, and always check the conditions and features of each zone to choose the right spot for you.
Understanding The Blacklip Abalone
The Blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) is the most common species of abalone found in NSW and is the basis of the abalone fishery in the state. They can be found in various locations along the NSW coastline, including Northern New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.
Blacklip abalone are typically harvested from rocky reefs by divers, who use surface-supplied air or scuba. Most commercial abalone fishing takes place on the south coast of NSW, primarily from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border, with most abalone found close to the shore.
It’s important to note that the minimum legal size for abalone varies depending on where they’re taken from. For example, in Port Phillip Bay, only five blacklip abalone can be taken, while in all other Victorian waters, five abalone can be taken, of which no more than two can be greenlip abalone. There is also a statewide possession limit for abalone of 10, of which no more than four can be greenlip abalone.
When collecting abalone, it’s important to use an abalone tool to avoid injuring them. Abalone are incredibly delicate and are haemophiliacs, meaning that if cut or bruised, their blood is unable to clot and they will die. Free abalone tools are available by calling 136 186.
Commercial Abalone Fishing In NSW
Commercial abalone fishing in NSW is primarily focused on the south coast, from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border. The Blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) is the main species targeted by commercial fishermen, and they are harvested from rocky reefs by divers using surface-supplied air or scuba.
The fishery is tightly controlled through a quota management system, with a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) set each year by the Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee. The TACC is proportionately allocated to shareholders based on their shareholding in the fishery. Since 2003-04, there have been 3,454 shares in the fishery, and the quota attached to each share is determined by the TACC divided by the total share.
The NSW Total Allowable Fishing Committee (TAFC) sets a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 100 tonnes of abalone for each fishing season from 1 July to 30 June. This TAC is divided among the commercial fishermen based on their shareholding in the fishery. However, poaching of abalone remains a significant problem, and fines for poaching have been increased from $500 to $10,000.
There has been some controversy surrounding bag limits for abalone among indigenous fishers and DPI fisheries inspectors on NSW’s South Coast. Indigenous fishers argue that they should not be subject to bag limits when taking abalone for cultural purposes, and that legislation passed in 2009 was designed to protect cultural fishing. DPI says it won’t enact the provisions of that legislation until there’s agreement on limits for cultural fishing. Since 2009, more than 200 indigenous fishers have been prosecuted in NSW for fisheries offences.
Opportunities For Recreational Abalone Fishing
Recreational abalone fishing is a popular activity in NSW, and there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to give it a try. The most common way to catch abalone is by diving, either with surface-supplied air or scuba. However, it’s important to note that abalone fishing is a skill that requires practice and patience before you can be successful.
One of the best places for recreational abalone fishing is from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border, where most commercial abalone fishing takes place. This area is known for its rocky reefs and shallow waters, which provide plenty of cover for abalone to hide. It’s also important to note that it’s illegal to take abalone from the Intertidal Zone in Victoria, which is defined as the area starting on the beach at the maximum high water mark, to a point where the water is two metres deep at any time.
Another great spot for recreational abalone fishing is along the Western Australian coastline. The area is divided into different zones, each with its own features and conditions. Before heading out, make sure to check the conditions and features of each zone to choose the right spot for you. Additionally, surf lifesavers patrol certain areas during abalone fishing sessions, so keep an eye out for them.
It’s important to note that there is a permanent closed season on the take of abalone from Central Victorian waters, except for specific open days each year. These open days include every Saturday and Sunday between 16 November and 30 April, every declared public holiday in Victoria between 16 November and 30 April, and 25 December through to the second Sunday in January.
Tips For Finding Abalone
Finding abalone can be a challenging task, but with the right techniques and approach, you can increase your chances of success. Here are some tips to help you find abalone:
1. Look at the Base of Rocks and in Cracks: Abalone tend to hide in areas that offer them protection from predators, so they’re not going to be easy to find. Rather than looking along the tops of rocks, concentrate your efforts at the base of rocks and in cracks. Abalone are often found upside down, back in the deepest cracks on the reef. They are found looking like buttons as they cling to a rocky reef just above a sandy area.
2. Cover as Much Territory as Possible: Once you are in the water, you need to cover as much territory as possible whilst trying to keep your heart rate and breathing to a relaxed level. Abalone can be found in various locations along the NSW coastline, but the most popular areas for commercial and recreational fishing are from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border.
3. Stay Calm and Slow: When you find abalone, don’t change your movements. Stay calm and slow whilst trying to catch them. Stay focused and adapt your strategy to not scare the abalone.
4. Use the Right Tools: Using screwdrivers or other knives to remove the abalone can damage them. Try a flat edge abalone knife instead.
5. Look for the “Right” Habitat: The most important aspect of trophy hunting is looking for the “right” abalone habitat. The first thing to look for is a rocky substrate with food (kelp for more mature abalone and algae for newly formed abalone that have just settled to the bottom). Having said this, sometimes you may find areas that look perfect for abalone and find none. Abalones don’t always live in the seemingly most hospitable habitat.
6. Explore Underwater Structures: It is easy to look for kelp beds and rocky reefs from the shore, but unless a diver gets into the water and explores, they will miss the less obvious underwater structures that are more likely to hold larger abalones.
7. Search Thoroughly: If you find an abalone in an area with very low population density (no matter the size), always search the area thoroughly, within a 10′ radius, until you find the bigger old-timers that are likely nearby.
By following these tips, you can increase your chances of finding abalone along the NSW coastline. Remember to always follow fishing regulations and take care when diving in unfamiliar waters.