29 Jun 2021

Looking into the details of the Hauraki Gulf new safe guards

From Afternoons, 1:30 pm on 29 June 2021

Last week the government announced 18 new protected areas in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, along with limiting trawl fishing to carefully selected corridors, in a bid to restore the health of the area.

The strategy is in response to the call for action made by the 2017 Sea Change - Tai Timu Tai Pari Hauraki Gulf Marine Spatial Plan.

Kina shown, on barren seabed at The Noises islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

Photo: Supplied/ Hauraki Gulf Forum

The strategy is welcome and it is vital it is implemented if the gulf is to recover, marine scientist and conservationist Veronica Rotman says.

The gulf was once a place of abundance, she told Jesse Mulligan.

“There used to be such abundance to the extent you could catch king fish with orange peel and get crayfish from the rocks.”

That ecological baseline has shifted and for the worse, she says.

“This should be the ecological baseline instead that baseline which is what changes are managed and measured against has dramatically shifted as knowledge is lost and people are not perceiving the changes that are taking place.”

The Hauraki Gulf is under pressure in a variety of ways, she says.

“You’ve got so many things going on; you’ve got recreational fishing, you’ve got commercial fishing and so many people wanting to use it because it’s such a beautiful, unique and accessible marine area, but what’s happening is it’s just not being used effectively.”

Although commercial fishing gets much of the blame, recreational is taking twice as much snapper from the gulf, she says.

She believes the recreational catch limits are too high.

“If you’re having a bag limit of 20 [fish] for one person per day .. is that really necessary?

“Cray fish are functionally extinct in the Hauraki Gulf in some areas and the individual quotas, yes it has been reduced last year from 6 down to 3 spiny rock lobster, but you can still get 3 rock lobster and 3 packhorse rock lobster which means that is 6 crayfish per person with 4 divers that’s over that’s around 200 years of growth.

“It takes 6 to 8 years for a crayfish to become legal in size.”

To consider cray as functionally extinct and allow them to still be taken in such numbers does not sit well, she says.

Marine reserves and protected areas are highly effective she says.

“We’ve seen kelp forests be able to be restored, we’ve seen so many things happen especially with effective networks of marine reserves being put into place which act as buffer zones.”

Not only do the reserves act as buffers, she says, they increase overall populations with fish being more abundant outside protected areas.

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