Baitshop Survey Report 2008: With a focus on the supply and demand for bait-worms in South Australia
Mair, Graham Charles
Harris, James Owen
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Recreational fishing is an increasingly popular hobby both locally and globally. This rise in popularity has increased the global demand for bait and has resulted in a higher demand for bait-worms than can be supplied. Bait-worms are a highly valued resource with a price tag, which is often higher per kg than that of human food. Evidence from overseas indicates that recently three main avenues have been adopted to fill this deficit 1) the culture of bait-worms, 2) the importation of live or preserved bait-worms or 3) by increasing the intensity of wild harvest (which has led to the development of a black market in Europe). None of these avenues has thus far proven sufficient to meet the current bait-worm deficit. Australia is currently mirroring the worldwide bait-worm situation, but to a much lesser extent, so is in the enviable position of being able to address the issue before it becomes dire, as has occurred in many parts of Europe and the USA. Of the three main avenues attempted overseas, only two realistic options are available for Australia and indeed South Australia as our strict quarantine laws preclude the importation of live bait-worms. The two remaining options are to increase the intensity of wild harvest and/or to culture bait-worms. There appears little chance of increasing commercial wild harvest for various reasons discussed in this report, so the development of a culture industry may be the most viable means of addressing the bait-worm deficit. Before considering the development of such an industry, it is imperative, and pertinent, to assess the current and potential markets for both live and preserved bait-worms within South Australia to assess the need for the end product. To this end, a survey was developed, distributed and the findings reported here. This survey was distributed to 92 retailers and 25 (27%) surveys were returned.This survey has identified that: • there is likely to be a market for aquaculture derived worms: 64% of baitshop owners would use a regular source of live worms with >85% of shop owners may prefer cultured worms to wild harvested • approximately 73% of anglers buy their worms from baitshops - which could equate to approximately 225,000 South Australian recreational anglers based on the 2000 - 2001 SA regional version of the National Recreational and Indigenous Fisheries Survey and ~$100 million of funds for fishing related expenses • the responding baitshop owners estimated potential sales of live worms was approximately 1.25 tonnes in the first year. The survey respondent’s sales accounted for only 15% of the total wild harvested bait–worms in the year surveyed, so the above estimate is probably conservative. The potential sales for preserved bait-worms was not assessed.