20 per cent of abalone quota not caught

For John Smythe, secretary of the Abalone Association of NSW, the border closure is yet another problem.

"The situation is not real good for the industry. There was a slowdown because of the fires and that stopped us from gearing up for the Lunar New Year and then COVID struck and the Shanghai markets were shut down," Mr Smythe said.

"It's been very off and on since January," he said.

The border closure will add to the problems with divers living in NSW and having quotas in Mallacoota.

"We're already on our knees waiting for orders from our mainly "live" buyers. The people who have abalone in tanks have stopped or slowed down," Mr Smythe said.

Divers live and work both sides of the border. Abalone that is caught locally often goes into holding tanks owned by companies such as Pacific Bao Yu in Eden before being sold to high end restaurants or sent to Asian export markets.

The slowdown in restaurants and export markets has affected the amount of abalone these companies can - or want to - hold. The other alternative is to have the abalone canned.

"When the cannery was burnt down in Mallacoota that was another avenue that was taken away," Mr Smythe said.

He said there had been some limited diving from February to June but it had mainly been to fulfill specific orders.

"So far this year I have dived six days, two days in April and four days in June and that was for set orders.

"We have 20 per cent of the quota uncaught. Of course the resource is still there but it means no income for the industry.

"If I'm not working I'm not paying deckhands and there's not money flowing back to chandlers and boat repairs or maintenance, plus it's a personal problem too."

The 20 per cent of uncaught abalone quota represents 20 tonnes of seafood.

"We're talking about trying to get agreement on a carry over to this year," Mr Smythe said.

"Basically we don't have any orders and I imagine it's going to continue like that."