The head of a Nelson-based scallop management company has acknowledged the need for better management of the resource in the Marlborough Sounds.
John Reid, of the Challenger Scallop Enhancement company, said while it had concerns about survey figures that showed a gradual decline in scallops in areas of the Sounds, it had responsibly managed the area, including closing off some areas managed by the company.
He said an area within Croisilles Harbour (near Okiwi Bay) has been closed off for the recreational fishing sector.
"It has been several years since these bays have been fished by the commercial sector," Mr Reid said.
Last week, Marlborough Sounds residents and recreational fishers warned that scallops could disappear from the Marlborough Sounds unless tougher constraints were placed on commercial dredgers.
The Kenepuru and Central Sounds Residents' Association, Pelorus Boating Club and the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association said the current management system for scallops was not working.
Residents' Association vice president Andrew Caddie said the commercial scallop industry wanted to harvest 34 tonnes this year and the figures showed that that was not sustainable.
He said Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) stock assessment data showed the catch has gradually dropped from more than 100 tonnes in 2009 to just 22 tonnes last year.
Mr Reid said while it was concerned about what the figures showed, scallops were an "unpredictable creature" that lived to about six years of age.
"They are commercially and recreationally harvested at 90mm shell size - at this stage they have lived half their lifespan.
"The fact that wild spat is in many of the bays in the Marlborough Sounds is encouraging and I don't see any predictions that lead us to believe that the biomass will go down further.
"There is a healthy range of pre-recruitment scallops moving through the Sounds. There are many environmental factors that contribute to a healthy aquatic environment in the Sounds and most of these are outside of our control," Mr Reid said.
The Marlborough Sounds scallop fishery is managed by the Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry for Primary Industries. Commercial harvest plans are proposed and presented based on an annual scientific survey report.
Primary Industries Minister spokesperson Nathan Guy said last week that this year's harvest plan had been received, and the Minister has asked MPI officials to review it and provide advice to him.
Mr Guy's office said the fishery's sustainability would be the main consideration in an assessment of the commercial dredger's harvest plan.
Mr Reid said the quota allowed would be entirely at MPI's discretion
"The season is open and being fished by other sectors. We will not be harvesting until late September," he said.