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
South Australia South Australia Sustainable

Fishery-independent relative abundance and size structures

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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

South Australia

Indigenous Australians have occupied the Coorong region in south eastern South Australia for at least 16 000 years and have harvested Pipi (also known as Goolwa Cockles in South Australia) for the past 10 000 years [Godfrey 1989]. Middens in the vicinity of the Murray River mouth in South Australia are composed almost exclusively of adult Pipi shells [Luebbers 1978].

The commercial fishery for Pipi has been managed under an individual transferable quota system with an annual total allowable commercial catch (TACC) since 2007–08, following fishery-dependent information indicating that Pipi had declined during the mid to late 2000s [Ferguson and Mayfield 2006, Ferguson 2013, Ferguson et al. 2015]. Fishers with quota for Pipi from the Lakes and Coorong Fishery (LCF) and the Marine Scalefish Fishery (MSF) operate mainly on the ocean beaches of Younghusband Peninsula, adjacent to the Coorong. Since 2012, the TACC has been determined under the harvest strategy for Pipi, which is described in the Management Plan for the Lakes and Coorong Fishery [PIRSA 2016] and a minimum legal length of 35 mm is in place to allow spawning to occur at least once before recruitment to the fishery [Ferguson 2013]. The recreational and commercial Pipi fisheries are spatially separated onto beaches that are, respectively, west and east of the River Murray mouth. Estimates of recreational catch range between 5 t and 33 t (whole weight) per year, reflecting between 0.8 and 7 per cent of the combined recreational and commercial state-wide catch [Jones 2009, Jones and Doonan 2005, Giri and Hall 2015].

The most recent stock assessment was completed in 2017 and reported up to the conclusion of the 2015–16 season [Ferguson and Hooper 2017]. The primary measures for biomass and fishing mortality are fishery-independent estimates of mean annual relative biomass [Ferguson et al. 2015] and population size structure. From 2009–10, increasing mean annual relative biomass and increasing complexity of size structures indicated recovery of the resource [Ferguson 2013, Ferguson et al. 2015]. From 2015–16 to 2017–18, following several years of successful recruitment, estimates of mean annual relative biomass were the highest on record and ranged from 44–61 per cent above the most recent ten year average (2008–09 to 2017–18). In 2018–19, relative biomass was five per cent below the ten year average but remained above (11 per cent) the target reference point in the harvest strategy [PIRSA, 2016]. Pre-recruits were present (46 per cent) in the population size structure in 2018–19. 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 South Australia 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
South Australia
Hand collection
Hand collection
Management methods
Method South Australia
Catch limits
Gear restrictions
Limited entry
Size limit
Spatial closures
Temporal closures
Native Title
Bag limits
Gear restrictions
Possession limit
Seasonal closures
Size limit
Spatial closures
South Australia
Commercial 646.98t
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational 22.9 t (in 2000), 5 t (in 2007), 33 t (in 2013)

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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  1. Conron, SD, Bell, JD, Ingram, BA and Gorfine, HK 2020, Review of key Victorian fish stocks — 2019, Victorian Fisheries Authority Science Report Series No. 15, First Edition, November 2020. VFA: Queenscliff. 176pp.
  2. Ferguson, G and Mayfield, S 2006, The South Australian Goolwa cockle (Donax deltoides) Fishery, fishery assessment report to Primary Industries and Resources South Australia Fisheries, South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Report RD06/005-1, Adelaide.
  3. Ferguson, G, Ward, TM and Gorman, D 2015, Recovery of a surf clam Donax deltoides population in southern Australia: successful outcomes of fishery-independent surveys. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 35:1185–1195. DOI:10.1080/02755947.2015.1091408.
  4. Ferguson, GJ 2013, Pipi (Donax deltoides) Stock Assessment, report for Primary Industries and Regions South Australia, publication F2007/000550-1, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide.
  5. Ferguson, GJ and Hooper GE 2017, Assessment of the South Australian Pipi (Donax deltoides) Fishery in 2016/17. Fishery Assessment Report for PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture. SARDI Publication No. F2007/000550-2. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), Adelaide, 48p.
  6. Giri, K and Hall, K 2015, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2013–14. Fisheries Victoria Internal Report Series No. 62, Victoria.
  7. Gluis, M and Li, X 2014, Developing clam aquaculture in Australia: a feasibility study on culturing Donax deltoides and Katelysia rhytiphora on intertidal and subtidal leases in South Australia. South Australian Research and Development Institute (Aquatic Sciences), FRDC Final Report 2009/208.
  8. Godfrey, MCS 1989, Shell midden chronology in SW Victoria, Archaeology in Oceania, 24: 65–69. DOI: 10.1002/j.1834-4453.1989.tb00213.x.
  9. Haddon, M. Punt, A and Burch, P 2018, simpleSA: A package containing functions to facilitate relatively simple stock assessments. R package version 0.1.18.
  10. Henry, GW and Lyle, JM 2003, The national recreational and Indigenous fishing survey, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  11. Johnson, DD 2020. Stock assessment report 2020 — Estuary General Hand Gathering Fishery — Pipi (Donax deltoides). NSW Department of Primary Industries. Fisheries NSW, Port Stephens Fisheries Institute. 71 pp.
  12. Jones, K 2009, South Australian recreational fishing survey 2007/08, South Australian fisheries management series, paper 55, Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, Adelaide.
  13. Jones, K and Doonan, AM 2005, 2000–01 national recreational and Indigenous fishing survey: South Australian regional information, South Australian fisheries management series, paper 46, Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, Adelaide.
  14. King, MG 1976, The life-history of the Goolwa Cockle, Donax (Plebidonax) deltoides, (Bivalvia: Donacidae), on an ocean beach, South Australia, South Australian Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Adelaide.
  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.
  19. Murphy, J.J., Ochwada-Doyle, F.A., West, L.D., Stark, K.E. and Hughes, J.M., 2020. The NSW Recreational Fisheries Monitoring Program - survey of recreational fishing, 2017/18. NSW DPI - Fisheries Final Report Series No. 158.
  20. Murray-Jones SE and Ayre, DJ 1997, High levels of gene flow in the surf bivalve Donax deltoides (Bivalvia: Donacidae) on the east coast of Australia, Marine Biology, 1(128): 83–89. DOI: 10.1007/s002270050071.
  21. Murray-Jones, S 1999, Conservation and management in variable environments: the surf clam, Donax deltoides, PhD thesis, University of Wollongong.
  22. PIRSA 2016, Management Plan for the South Australian Commercial Lakes and Coorong Fishery. Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (Fisheries and Aquaculture), Adelaide.
  23. Schnierer, S 2011, Aboriginal fisheries in New South Wales; determining catch, cultural significance of species and traditional fishing knowledge need. Final report to Fisheries Research and development Corporation, Project No. 2009/038, Canberra.
  24. West, LD, Stark, KE, Murphy, JJ, Lyle, JM and Ochwada-Doyle, FA 2015, Survey of recreational fishing in New South Wales and the ACT, 2013/14. Fisheries Final Report Series No. 149. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wollongong.

Downloadable reports

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