management of the specimen shell industry is the responsibility
of the various State fisheries agencies under the Wildlife Protection
(Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982, which requires that
the fishery be conducted under Management Plans enacted in each
State and Territory. To date only Western Australia and Queensland
have management plans in place. A draft management plan has been
available in NSW for more than two years but has not yet been
released for comment.
a very low priority is given to this “fishery” by most of the
state/territory agencies (some do not have draft management plans),
there is unlikely to be a significant allocation of resources
to this issue. Thus these management plans need to be workable
and practically enforceable. There is general acknowledgment that
shell collecting is a popular and generally harmless occupation
and should be allowed to occur without undue restriction, while
at the same time protecting species and habitats recognised as
being vulnerable. An option favoured by the Malacological Society
of Australasia is to licence collectors and impose a code of ethics.
Bag limits should be placed on the species targeted by collectors
as specimen shells or for food.
of live and dead collected specimens has been identified as an
issue in some management plans. Willan (1986) detailed the ways
in which live collected and beach collected specimens can be differentiated,
providing a potential means of settling any disputes. In Western
Australia, however, the definition of specimen shells includes
empty beach shells. Ponder and Grayson (1998) argue that there
is little, if any, justification in preventing or limiting the
collection of empty shells from beaches. The implementation of
such a definition could potentially make any child or tourist
picking up a few shells on the beach liable to be fined for breaking
the law. This is the case, for example, on the GBR where it is
illegal to collect shells or corals dead or alive.
management option (for example in the Queensland Management Plan)
involves banning the sale of bycatch obtained from fishing trawlers.
Ponder and Grayson (1998) argued that by excluding using bycatch,
the legal source of most of the shelf taxa will disappear, driving
the prices up and the market underground.
reports on the shell trade have recommended banning some species
from trade (e.g., Willan 1986). While Ponder and Grayson (1998) argued that there is no
immediate need to ban any species from export, there was a clear
need to have management plans in place for targeted, vulnerable
species. Of these, some members of the families Cypraeidae (cowries)
and Volutidae (volutes, including the baler shells) are most at
risk. The Australian volutes are all direct developers, as are
several endemic cypraeid taxa but there is no evidence to suggest
that all volute species are at risk and many species of cowry
are widespread and very common.
of commercial specimen shell operators is a management option
that is used in some states - for example, there are five licenses
for people to take specimen shells (about 600 shells) from the
and data needs