TASMANIAN Scallop Fishermen's Association vice-president Karl Krause says only a handful of viable operators remain in the industry, leaving about 70 out of business.
The 2014 commercial scallop season opened on July 1 and will run until December 31, and for the second consecutive year, the fishermen's total allowable catch is 15 per cent of their licensed quota.
``We go and buy this quota of 400 kilos a unit, we've all bought it, and then these managers issue 15 per cent of it - we are not economically viable,'' Mr Krause said.
``There are about four or five boats out of the 70 operating.
``We could be employing 2000 people and we are employing a handful a month.
``It's a sad story.''
Mr Krause, who has been scallop fishing for about 30 years, said he would not fish this season.
He said there needed to be more traceability in the industry to record when the shellfish were caught, who caught them and an expiry date - to monitor the quality of the fish.
Tasmania Seafood Industry Council chief executive Neil Stump said the state's scallop fishery is a ``spasmodic'' business with plenty of peaks and troughs.
Anecdotal reports suggest the season has started strongly, but it hasn't been the case for several years.
``Recruitment of scallops are very problematic and if you go back to the '80s, I think we had five or six good years in a row and then there was just a lack of juvenile scallops coming on and fisheries closures for five or seven years,'' Mr Stump said.
``That does make it problematic from a number of points of view - you have got to pay for your access right annually . . . irrespective if you use it.
``In this instance [past few years], it is not as if people don't want to go fishing for scallops, it is just for environmental reasons and ecological reasons they are not there.
``In regards to the processing sector being able to train and maintain staff, again that's problematic when you have a fishery that may operate two or three years and then be closed for four or five years.''
Mr Stump said the inconsistency had a lot to do with the reproductive biology and ecology of the scallop.
He said the Tasmanian market for the product was high but intermittent, meaning it had to export scallops internationally as most markets demanded consistent supply.
``Last season beds of scallops were discovered up west of Circular Head at the Nut at Stanley, out between there and Three Hummock Island - that had been areas in the past . . . but that is the first time they would have been harvested there for nearly 20 years at least,'' he said.
``There were also some scallops harvested in Marion Bay and on the East Coast near Triabunna at White Rock, and over the last 10 years that has been an area where when there has been a season a majority of our scallops have been harvested from.''
- cmartin@examiner. com.au