Rock lobster will be one of the many species of shellfish people cannot harvest if a temporary fishery closure is put in place at Tutukaka Harbour, Ngunguru Bay and Ngunguru River.
Depleting resources have prompted customary owners to request a temporary fishery closure and fishing method prohibition in an area northeast of Whangārei.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has publicly notified a request by the tangata whenua o Ngāti Takapari, Te Waiariki, and Ngāti Korora “Whangai Mokopuna” Rohe Moana for a two-year closure of the area that covers Tutukaka Harbour, Ngunguru Bay and Ngunguru River and nearby areas.
If given the green light, there will be a prohibition on the take of all shellfish, except kina, all species of seahorse and piper/garfish. The definition of shellfish includes but is not limited to blackfoot and yellowfoot pāua, rock lobster and packhorse rock lobster, and all species of mussels, octopus and squid.
The taking of scallops is already prohibited under the Fisheries Act.
The requested method prohibition would ban the use of nets, including scoop nets, gill nets, set nets and drag nets. It will apply to all commercial, recreational and customary fishers as provided by the Fisheries Act.
MPI said the proposed area included the New Zealand fisheries waters between the Middle Gable, north of Tutukaka Head and Paparoa, north of Parauwanui Beach, and offshore to about three nautical miles.
The proposed area includes the Horahora River, upstream to near the intersection of Pataua North Road and Mangahui Road, and the Ngunguru River, upstream to near the intersection of Ngunguru Road and Old Kiripaka Road.
In the closure request submitted to MPI, tangata kaitiaki for “Whangai Mokopuna” Rohe Moana, Phillip Wellington, said the purpose of the closure would be to restore the dramatically reduced population of the identified species to ecologically sustainable quantities.
Tangata kaitiaki, alongside Ngunguru School students and Dragonfly data science, have carried out surveys of shellfish beds in the Ngunguru River, he said.
Wellington said stocks of pipi were found but they remained small, despite a closure on the beds since early 2016.
“We have also utilised tikanga Māori and independent marine researchers from Te Wairua O Te Moananui to validate the decline of the wider list of identified species,” he said.
Submissions close on May 8 and can be emailed to: FMSubmissions@mpi.govt.nz.
Section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996 allows the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to temporarily close an area, or temporarily restrict or prohibit the use of any fishing method in respect of an area, if satisfied that the closure, restriction or prohibition will recognise and provide for the use and management practices of tangata whenua in the exercise of non-commercial fishing rights.