Control yourself—take only what you need from it

A diver gathering dinner Credit – T.McCowan
Kaikoura reopening—season 2

On April 15 this year, the November 14 earthquake affected area of the Kaikoura coastline now designated PAU3A, and the Marlborough east coast were reopened to recreational pāua fishing for the second season since the closure. The fishery was closed in 2016 under Fisheries Act Emergency Regulations by Minister Nathan Guy because of fears that the earthquake had severely damaged pāua and other shellfish populations along the coast.

This was a good decision by Minister Guy, which provided time for the fishery to “re set” and for marine scientists to intensively research what was happening, to help future management decisions It remained closed for five years and was reopened in December 2021 for the first trial season by Minister David Parker for three months, before closing on 28th February. Included in the reopening were new Total Allowable Catches (TAC’s), daily bag limits, extra enforcement effort and a close monitoring of actual catch by researchers from Blue Water Marine and Canterbury University.

First season a bloody slaughter

Unfortunately, the first season didn’t play out as the Fisheries Managers had intended. They had mooted a conservative and cautious approach to catch levels in the recovering fishery but this was overwhelmed by the huge level of recreational fishing activity. For example, head counts of around a thousand participants on peak days were recorded along the accessible coast adjacent to SH1. The documented catch levels and impacts concerned local Iwi, the scientists and fishery managers, which lead to are think on what should be in place to ensure future seasons would not impact on the recovery further.

Always check the rules for your local area Credit Dave Rae

It was also recognised that the second season would have to be a bit of a catch up to mitigate the earlier over harvesting.

For the 2023 season the package of measures for recreational fishing includes: 

• A two month recreational open season, starting 15 April. 

• Strong enforcement of the rules by Fishery Officers and Honorary Fishery Officers, with support from outside the district again. 

• MPI and FNZ are encouraging the use of ministry provided pāua tools, which are free, and the NZ Fishing Rules App.

• An ongoing monitoring of catch levels by Blue Water Marine, to be reported back to the Ministry in near real time. 

• The ability to take Yellowfoot has been included this year for the first time since the earthquake closures came in.

The daily bag limits and sizes; See image 2

How this second season plays out will inform what following seasons might look like. If the catch levels are within allowances, then the adaptive rebuild approach promoted by Te Korowai and Kaikoura Marine Guardians point to possible daily bag limit increases and a longer season. But that is in the hands of the recreational fishers participating.

Do your bit with the Mainland Catch App

A useful and practical way to help in future decision making is for fishers to use the “Mainland Catch” App, which can be downloaded to your cellphone, with specific functionality for reporting pāua catch and observations.

Recheck of the size Credit – T.McCowan

See Image 3

A really promising measure is that taken by Ngati Kuri in the Oara-Haumuri Taiāpure area, under Fisheries Act regulations. Local Rununga were deeply concerned by the large numbers of fishers harvesting in the shallow wading depth areas. These shallower, low tide wading areas are favoured by kaumatua, who wouldn’t normally dive, and also used as harvesting and tikanga teaching areas for mokopuna. So to protect these shallower stocks but still allow some recreational catch, they have opted for a lower daily bag limit but, importantly also, a higher minimum legal size for recreational fishers at 135, which commercial have matched.

At 135mm research indicates that adult pāua will have had a number of extra seasons of spawning compared to the current minimum legal size of 125mm.

By way of compensation, the bigger size yields a proportionately larger weight of edible meat than the smaller size. A 135mm pāua will yield about 160g of meat, compared to about 125g for 125mm. Harvesting a bag limit of two 135mm pāua (from the Taiapure area) will yield 320g of meat, comparable to the 375g of meat yield from harvesting a bag limit of three pāua at 125mm from other areas. So there is not really much of a difference in yield despite the lower bag allowance.

Image 3 Taiapure area

The larger size limit will also ensure that larger numbers of the key 125mm—130mm adults will be left in spawning aggregations, which are a fundamental requirement for any abalone ( pāua ) population regeneration and sustainability. See Image 3

It’s good to see the Ministry applying an adaptive approach this season, which should pay dividends to the fishery. Fingers crossed for good weather and sea conditions so everyone can enjoy their pāua harvesting experience and the sociability of a kaimoana meal together.

As those famous philosophers from Connecticut indie band MGMT say:

“Control yourself—take only what you need from it.”

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