Some Kaikoura residents, including commercial fishers and members of the Kaikoura marine watchdog groups Te Korowai o Te Ti o Marokura and Kaikoura Marine Guardians, are saying the 35-tonne recreational take from last summer’s short three-month season is not sustainable.
That was despite the bag limit being reduced to five, the accumulation limit to six, and the legal-size limit increased to 130mm.
Fisheries NZ Inshore Manager South Allen Frazer in an MPI press release said recreational fishers, of which 1700 were interviewed, were estimated to have harvested 3500 tonnes of the popular shellfish.
Many are saying this was too many, including commercial fisher and Te Korowai member David Rae who was reported as saying in a RNZ interview that the commercial sector was happy that their catch had been capped at 23 tonnes, with 7.5 tonnes for customary take, but there was no control over the TAC for recreational fishers which was seven times more than was allocated.
He said there was no reason why recreational catch could not be recorded to get accurate figures, as was required by industry. He called for compulsory reporting and perhaps licensing, as was done overseas. David Rae wanted the Minister to look at the whole fishery and the total catch, not just that of commercial and customary.
Allen Fraser said on average 250 people a day gathered paua over the season in the restricted area. He said the next steps would be in the hands of the community and iwi, led by Kaikoura Marine Guardians. He said the Kaikoura community would be consulted before any decisions regarding the paua fishery’s future. The guardians were set up under the Kaikoura Marine Management Act 2014 and appointed by conservation and MPI ministers.
Gina Solomon, an administrator of Te Korowai, said hundreds of vehicles were reported parked along the coastline with large groups of people gathering paua. An emergency meeting was held in January to discuss concerns, and the group were disappointed MPI did not take their advice and that of the community. They fear the fishery has been devastated; something described as ‘heartbreaking’.
An earlier report suggested residents were estimating as many as a 1000 five-paua bag limits were being taken each day. Te Korowai were urging people at the time to take paua for a feed, not the freezer.
The Kaikoura fishery had been closed to paua following the 2016 earthquake, which devastated the coastline, resulting in people now being able to harvest paua in ankle-deep water, making the stocks vulnerable to overfishing.