Torres Strait Pearl Shell Fishery

Map showing the area of the Torres Strait Pearl Shell Fishery (2006)

The PZJA is responsible for management of pearl shell collection in the Torres Strait. Farming of pearl shell is managed by the Queensland Government.

The gold-lipped pearl shell (Pinctada maxima) and to a lesser extent the black-lipped pearl shell (Pinctada margaritifera) are the main species targeted in the Torres Strait, although five other species occur.

In the Torres Strait Pearl Shell Fishery, expansion in licences is limited to Traditional Inhabitants, so as to maximise their opportunities.

A Hand Collectables Working Group has been established to provide advice to the PZJA on issues related to the Trochus Fishery.

Management objectives

Objectives adopted for the Torres Strait Pearl Shell Fishery are:

  • to conserve the stock of pearl shell so as to achieve its optimum utilisation; and
  • to maximise the opportunities for Traditional Inhabitants of Australia and PNG to participate in the Pearl Shell Fishery.

Management arrangements

Restrictions in the Torres Strait Pearl Shell Fishery are aimed at promoting the taking of pearl shell for farming purposes included in Prohibition on the taking, processing and carrying of pearl shell (gear and size restrictions):

  • a prohibition on the taking of gold-lipped pearl shell, black lipped pearl shell or any other pearl shell species ;
  • minimum and maximum size limits for gold and black lip pearl shells (not less than 130 millimetres or greater than 230 millimetres length; and greater than 90 millimetres length, respectively), which are aimed at ensuring the most suitable shells are taken for farming and affording some protection to young shells and spawning stocks; and
  • banning the taking of shell by any method other than diving or collecting by hand.

Condition of the fishery

On the basis of past surveys, the abundance of pearl shell on the main fishing grounds is low, although there has been occasional recruitment to shell stocks in some places. There have been reports of very low levels of fishing in recent years.