The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has lodged submissions on proposed fisheries sustainability measures for Coromandel scallops, Northland spiny red rock lobster (CRA 1) and Tory Channel kina which affect management settings for these stocks.
“Overall, the proposals are a positive step forward. However, none of them go far enough”, said EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.
“Sadly, the Coromandel scallop fishery has now collapsed with potentially significant implications for fishers and the broader marine environment. The damaging impacts of dredging, the predominant method used to harvest scallops, have no doubt contributed to this situation.
“Fisheries NZ is now proposing a permanent closure of the scallop fishery, which is good thing. However, EDS has urged the Minister to clearly signal that, if the fishery is ever to open again, dredging methods will prohibited. This would give the industry a clear signal that dredging will not be acceptable in the future, and ensure harvesters have ample time to adapt to new methods while the stock hopefully recovers.
“Dredging is also currently being used to harvest kina in the Tory Channel/Kuru te Au. This is an area of high biodiversity where benthic habitats are particularly sensitive to disturbance. Frankly, we were astounded to learn that dredging was still allowed to take place in this sensitive area. Dredging for kina has long been prohibited in the North Island.
“EDS strongly supports the proposal to prohibit dredging in the kina fishery, noting that the prohibition needs to apply to both shallow and deep marine areas, and to recreational dredging which is not currently proposed.
“In terms of CRA 1, this fishery was the subject of a High Court decision in November last year which confirmed that fishing down rock lobster along the Northland coast is associated with the loss of kelp forests and development of kina barrens.
“The widespread loss of kelp forest habitat along the Northland coast is highly concerning. It represents a significant threat to the rock lobster stock as well as to broader marine biodiversity. Kelp is the foundation of our marine forests which support a myriad of creatures. It also sequesters carbon and fuels marine food webs and productivity.
“The proposals put forward by Fisheries NZ for managing CRA 1 range from maintaining the status quo to a 22 per cent reduction in the total allowable catch (TAC). None of these options come anywhere near what is required to reverse the devastating consequences of kina barrens.
“EDS has proposed a 50 per cent reduction in the TAC in the first instance, along with a suite of other management measures. These include placing restrictions on the maximum size of crayfish harvested, a prohibition on harvesting at the depths most susceptible to kina barren development and permanent area-based restrictions to protect important kelp forest habitat.
“In a climate changing world, we need to be reducing our fishing impacts on the marine area,” concluded Ms Peart.
The submissions can be viewed here.