Guilt-free scallops on the menu as Abrolhos fishery bags sustainability tick

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Scallop fishers operating at Western Australia’s pristine Abrolhos Islands hope a new sustainability certification for their catches will boost domestic and international sales.  

The Abrolhos Islands scallop fishery is the first in Australia to receive sustainability certification from the internationally recognised Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Fisheries Minister Don Punch said the MSC assessed sustainability of stocks, environmental impact and fishery management. 

Geraldton-based McBoats is one of the two scallop companies that work the islands. 

The company’s Peter McGowan said customers were increasingly asking for independent fishery certification. 

A man stands holding a tray of white scallop meat towards the camera. A man stands holding a tray of white scallop meat towards the camera.
Peter McGowan from McBoats says the certification is the result of years worth of improvements. (ABC Rural: Jo Prendergast)

“The supermarkets mainly are one of the big players that are asking the question about certification and all of our Singapore and Hong Kong markets have been waiting for this to happen to open a few more doors for them.”

More than a decade of work

Mr McGowan said the industry had been working towards improved sustainability and improved environmental practices for years. 

“We have done a lot of stuff with net design, identifying fragile areas at the Abrolhos Islands that we won’t go near to trawl, we have been putting this effort in for the last 10 or 15 years, this is a bit of a fruition of all of that,” he said. 

“The work with Far West has been a great partnership where the two companies can work together to make the fishery a lot better.”

Lots of pink scallop shells on a tableLots of pink scallop shells on a table
Scallops from the Abrolhos Islands will be certified as sustainably caught and managed. (ABC Rural: Jo Prendergast)

Mr McGowan said stock management after a four-year closure of the Abrolhos Islands fishery due to a marine heatwave had assisted with achieving MSC accreditation.  

“We shut the fishery when that happened, we waited for the stocks to rebound and then reopened the fishery, there was not ever talk about it being through overfishing or poor management, it was purely an environmental thing,” he said. 

“The MSC certification looked at that pretty heavily and [decided] … that was the best management tools you could use in a situation like that.”