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Draft Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan needs more ambition

28 February 2023

The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has lodged its submission on the draft Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan.

“It’s great that the draft plan has finally seen the light of day. It’s been a very long time in the making, with more than six years passing since the Hauraki Gulf Sea Change Plan provided recommendations on fisheries management in the Gulf,” said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.  

“During this six year delay the state of the Hauraki Gulf has deteriorated even further. This is evidenced by the recent collapse of the Gulf’s scallop beds. This means that the Fisheries Plan needs to be more ambitious than the Sea Change Plan if it is to turn the situation around. It certainly should not undermine the outcomes of that lengthy and collaborative process.

“Unfortunately, that hasn’t been achieved. There are a lot of positive actions in the Fisheries Plan which should be supported. However, it fails to adequately address two of the most serious fisheries-related threats to the Hauraki Gulf: the impacts of bottom trawling and dredging and the expansion of kina barrens with consequent loss of kelp forests.

“The Sea Change Plan recognised the damaging impacts of bottom contact fishing methods on marine habitats and provided for a complete phase out of bottom trawling, dredging and Danish seining by 2025.

“The Fisheries Plan provides for all methods to continue in the Gulf indefinitely, albeit in smaller areas. This is simply not adequate. The ecologically damaging impacts of these methods is well known and scientifically established. The Fisheries Plan should provide for a full phase-out within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park as specified in the Sea Change Plan.

“The other area where the Fisheries Plan is too weak is in addressing kina barrens. These develop when large predators of kina, such as snapper and crayfish, are overfished. The kina proliferates and strip the rocky reefs of their kelp forests.

“Kina barrens are currently expanding in the Hauraki Gulf, with areas such as the Noises Islands having now lost around half their kelp forests. This has significant flow on effects for the Gulf’s entire marine environment, as kelp forests are enormously important for marine productivity, the recruitment and survival of many species, and carbon sequestration.

“Despite the Sea Change Plan having firm recommendations in this area, the Fisheries Plan only makes cursory reference to kina barrens. It needs to directly front up to this issue and put in place management settings that ensure the populations of snapper and crayfish are rapidly rebuilt in order to keep kina populations under control.

“We have waited a very long time for implementation of the Sea Change Plan. It is important that we don’t let vested interests undermine its intent in these final stages,” concluded Ms Peart.

Read the EDS submission here.