Protection of Bay of Islands Marine Diversity Sought

Fisheries New Zealand is consulting on proposed changes to commercial fishing sustainability measures for the Cape Brett to Mimiwhangata area on the eastern Northland coastline. 
The Ministry welcomes feedback from tangata whenua, stakeholders and the public on the two proposals.

The reef systems around the cape to Mimiwhangata support significant benthic marine biodiversity. This includes habitat-forming species such as sponges, bryozoans, and black, stony and gorgonian corals.

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Commercial fishing with mobile bottom-contact gear (bottom trawling and Danish seining) is considered to be the main potential threat to benthic biodiversity in the area.
This consultation is for two proposed options for the Cape Brett to Mimiwhangata area to protect the marine environment:

•    Option 1 – Prohibit commercial bottom trawling and Danish seining on the rocky reefs and surrounding soft sediments. This would minimise the risk of resuspended sediment settling on sensitive species and affecting their health.

•    Option 2 – Prohibit commercial bottom trawling and Danish seining on the rocky reefs. This would have less impact on commercial fishers as they would retain the ability to fish on the soft sediments.

The consultation options originated from multiple party discussions over the past year as part of Environment Court proceedings on the proposed Northland Regional Plan under the Resource Management Act (RMA). The commercial method prohibitions are proposed to be in place indefinitely, to protect the ongoing vulnerability of the benthic community biodiversity to mobile bottom-contact fishing gear. Customary non-commercial and recreational fishing would not be impacted by these proposals.

The primary objective of this consultation is to protect sessile benthic communities from any adverse effects of fishing with mobile bottom-contact gear. These benthic communities provide shelter, protection and resources for other marine flora (plants) and fauna (animals), including for many fish and taonga species.

Map of proposed bottom trawling and Danish seining prohibition areas for each consultation option. 

The reef systems around Cape Brett to Mimiwhangata support significant benthic marine biodiversity. There are extensive shallow reefs connected to deeper reef systems extending to more than 13 kilometres offshore. The shallow reefs support a high diversity of algal communities (for example, Carpophyllum and Ecklonia kelp forests) which host a high diversity of reef fish species. As the reefs drop to greater depths they become dominated by diverse suspension-feeding invertebrate communities, which include corals and the highest known diversity of sponges in Northland (after North Cape). 

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The East Auckland Current brings a unique subtropical water flow to this part of the New Zealand coast that enhances local species diversity in the area, particularly around Cape Brett. A range of tropical and subtropical fish and invertebrate larvae are carried along this current from northern latitudes to settle in the area (such as the legally protected spotted black grouper).

Interested parties can find out more via the consultation documents: Review of commercial fishing sustainability measures for the Cape Brett to Mimiwhangata area, Northland. Completed submission forms can be sent to [email protected] The deadline is October 18.
 

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