Pipi (2020)

Donax deltoides

  • Greg Ferguson (South Australian Research and Development Institute)
  • Daniel Johnson (Department of Primary Industries NSW)
  • Victorian Fisheries Authority (Victorian Fisheries Authority)

Date Published: June 2021

You are currently viewing a report filtered by jurisdiction. View the full report.

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Pipi are common on sandy beaches from southern QLD to the mouth of the Murray River in SA. It has been harvested by Indigenous people for 10 000 years. Pipi is a sustainable stock in SA and NSW, and undefined stock in VIC.

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Stock status Indicators
New South Wales New South Wales Sustainable

Catch, Standardised catch rates, estimated biomass

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Stock Structure

Pipi is common on high-energy sandy beaches from southern Queensland to the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia [Murray-Jones and Ayre 1997] and the distribution may extend further westwards. High genetic variation between populations on either side of Bass Strait indicates at least two biological stocks, with the East Australian and South Australian Currents acting as key drivers of gene flow on the east and south coasts of Australia respectively [Miller et al. 2013]. A study of Pipi from Fraser Island, Queensland, to southern New South Wales, indicated a single biological stock over this area, with genetic mixing driven by ocean currents associated with the East Australian Current [Murray-Jones and Ayre 1997]. For locations west of Bass Strait in South Australia and western Victoria, no evidence of genetic structuring has been detected [Miller et al. 2013]. The degree of larval mixing is thought to be related to spawning and larval duration, although these are poorly understood [King 1976, Ferguson 2013, Gluis and Li 2014, Miller et al. 2013]. Although no genetic differences were detected among Pipi populations on beaches along the east coast of Australia, in any given year, most recruits are likely to be self-seeded or to come from nearby, adjacent beaches [Murray-Jones and Ayre 1997]. This is also likely the case for the fisheries located to the west of Bass Strait. Despite the work outlined above, the biological stock delineation of Pipi remains unclear.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the jurisdictional level—New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

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Stock Status

New South Wales

The harvest of Pipi in New South Wales is shared between the commercial sector, recreational fishers and for at least 10 000 years Pipi have provided a source of food for Indigenous people in this region [Murray-Jones 1999]. Steeply declining commercial catches over a six-year period (568 tonnes (t) in 2004–05 to 9 t in 2010–11) suggested that New South Wales Pipi stocks were depleted. Input controls were implemented which aimed to stabilise catches. These included: (1) spatial closures (i.e. within-beach closures), (2) temporal closures of the commercial fishery (i.e. 6 months per-annum), and (3) a minimum legal size limit (i.e. 45 mm total length) to allow spawning to occur at least once before recruitment to the fishery [Murray-Jones 1999], as well as a daily catch limit of 40 kg per fisher. Annually, harvest is reported from a small proportion (less than 20 per cent) of the total number of beaches from which harvest is permitted. From 2010–11 to 2015–16, catches increased from 9 t to 176 t (26 per cent of historical peak), likely resulting from these management measures. Reported commercial landings in 2018–19 declined to 132.5 t.

The primary indicators for biomass and fishing mortality are commercial catch and standardised commercial catch rate. Standardised commercial catch rate (in mean CPUE kg-h-1) is likely to be the most reliable index of relative abundance for Pipi in NSW. Generalised linear models (GLM) provided estimates of standardised mean catch rates, corrected for differences among fishing years, months, management regions, individual fishing operations, and their transformed fishing effort. Mean daily catch rates (2009–10 to 2018–19), for all regions combined have remained stable, and above the 9-year average over the previous 7 years [Johnson 2020].

Statewide catches and catch rates have generally increased since 2010–11. For the three main regions of the fishery (Region 1, adjacent to the Queensland border and Regions 3 and 4, located to the south), annual catches have increased and annual catch rate has been stable since 2010–11. In each of these regions, from 2012–13 to 2018–19, monthly catch rate has generally remained stable across the six-month fishing season. For the years in which simple stock depletion models were applied (i.e. when within-season declines in catch rate occurred, estimated exploitation rates in Region 1 and Region 4 were < 30 per cent [Johnson 2020]. In Region 3, which includes the greatest number of accessible beaches and highest number of endorsed fishers, within-season exploitation rates ranged from 28–73 per cent [Johnson 2020]. 

Commercial catches from 1984 to 2019 were assessed using the catch-MSY model from the 'simpleSA' package in R [Martell and Froese 2013, Haddon et al. 2018]. Results suggested that the current biomass of Pipi in NSW waters is depleted to 33 per cent (95 per cent confidence interval 9–49 per cent) of the estimated maximum biomass. Five-year stock projections at a constant catch of 150 t (TAC currently 147.4 t) indicated that biomass is predicted to increase slowly [Johnson 2020]. 

Estimates of state-wide recreational catches are available from the National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey and New South Wales state-wide surveys completed in 2000–01 [Henry and Lyle 2003], 2013–14 [West et al. 2015] and 2017–18 [Murphy et al. 2020] financial years. The estimated recreational catch in 2000–01 was 7 t, and in 2017–18 was 1.1 t, representing less than one per cent of the combined recreational and commercial harvest in each survey period. In 2000, recreational harvesting of Pipi for human consumption was prohibited, restricting recreational fishers to harvesting for bait use only. Although Indigenous fishers harvest Pipi throughout New South Wales, there are no state-wide estimates of Indigenous harvest. Onsite interviews of Indigenous fishers in the Tweed Heads region (Northern New South Wales) estimated an annual Pipi harvest in that region of 3 056–7 380 individuals [Schnierer 2011]. Using a regional weight multiplier estimated at 14.81 g per Pipi (Murphy et al. 2020), indigenous harvest was estimated to be less than 0.12 t. The above evidence indicates that the biomass of this stock is unlikely to be depleted and that recruitment is unlikely to be impaired. Furthermore, the above evidence indicates that the current level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment impaired.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, Pipi in NSW is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Pipi biology [King 1976, Murray-Jones 1999, Ferguson 2013]

Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)

South Australia: 3–5 years, 61 mm SL. New South Wales: 1–2 years, 75 mm SL

South Australia: ~12 months, fifty per cent mature at 28 mm SL. New South Wales: 1 year, 37 mm SL

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Distribution of reported commercial catch of Pipi
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Fishing methods
New South Wales
Hand collection
Hand collection
Hand collection
Management methods
Method New South Wales
Catch limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Customary fishing management arrangements
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Possession limit
New South Wales
Commercial 132.47t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 1.1 t (2017–18)

Active Vessels  Because Pipi are collected from beaches, ‘vessels’ is not used. Hence, numbers of licences and fishers are presented here instead of vessel numbers. Licences refer to the number of licence holders with an endorsement to take Pipi for sale.

Victoria - Indigenous (management methods) A person who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is exempt from the need to obtain a Victorian recreational fishing licence, provided they comply with all other rules that apply to recreational fishers, including rules on equipment, catch limits, size limits and restricted areas. Traditional (non-commercial) fishing activities that are carried out by members of a traditional owner group entity under an agreement pursuant to Victoria’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 are also exempt from the need to hold a recreational fishing licence, subject to any conditions outlined in the agreement. Native title holders are also exempt from the need to obtain a recreational fishing licence under the provisions of the Commonwealth’s Native Title Act 1993.

New South Wales – Indigenous (management methods)https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fishing/aboriginal-fishing.

New South Wales – Recreational (Catch) Murphy et al. [2020].

South Australia and Victoria - Commercial (catch) Catches from the MSF in South Australia, and the BF and OF in Victoria cannot be reported separately for confidentiality reasons as there are fewer than five licences.

South Australia – Indigenous (management methods) In South Australia, regulations for managing recreational fishing may not apply to fishing activities by Indigenous people. South Australian traditional owners may have rights under the Commonwealth's Native Title Act 1993 to hunt, fish, gather and conduct other cultural activities for their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs without the need to obtain a licence.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Pipi - note confidential catch not shown
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  15. Lewis, Z, Khageswor, G, Versace, VL and Scarpaci, C 2012, Applying stock indicators for assessment of a recreational surf clam (Donax deltoides) fishery in Victoria, Australia, Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 1–7. DOI: 10.1017/S0025315412001695
  16. Luebbers, RA 1978, Meals and menus: a study of change in prehistoric coastal settlements in South Australia, PhD thesis, Australian National University, Canberra.
  17. Martell, S and Froese, R 2013, A simple method for estimating MSY from catch and resilience. Fish and Fisheries 14: 504-514.
  18. Miller, AD, Versace, VL, Matthews, TG, Montgomery, S and Bowie, KC 2013, Ocean currents influence the genetic structure of an intertidal mollusc in southeastern Australia—implications for predicting the movement of passive dispersers across a marine biogeographic barrier, Ecology and Evolution, 3(5): 1248–1261. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.535.
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Downloadable reports

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