18 Dec 2020

Coromandel residents declare voluntary rāhui on collecting scallops at Opito Bay

6:16 pm on 18 December 2020

Coromandel residents have declared a voluntary rāhui on collecting scallops from a bay on the eastern side of the peninsula.

Scallops (file photo).

Scallops (file photo). Photo: 123rf

The ban at Ōpito Bay over summer is being put in place to prevent the collapse of the shellfish's population.

A survey by mana whenua and mana moana Ngāti Hei began yesterday in Ōpito Bay to find out how many scallops remained.

Ngāti Hei kaumātua Joe Davis told Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan that a lack of action from officials was forcing locals to step in.

"We needed to do something to create some awareness about the numbers that are coming down and the signs that are telling us there is something wrong with the fisheries out here," Davis said.

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie said she supported the rāhui, but that it was up to the Ministry for Primary Industries to address the decline in scallop numbers.

"Once any issues have been resolved we are more than happy to support a rāhui when it is proven fisheries have been depleted," Goudie said.

Davis said a process needed to begin to look at how the population could be restored.

"They probably won't get back to where they used to be, but certainly we need to do something that's heading in that direction," he said.

From a Māori perspective the lack of scallops washing up on the beach after storms was a concerning sign the shellfish was disappearing from the area, Davis said.

"It was a natural way [to collect] without having to go diving, pull a dredge or buy them commercially. The last big washup that we had was about seven or eight years ago and we have noticed that phenomena just doesn't happen anymore."

The initial response from people outside of the iwi had been "pretty good," but Davis did acknowledge that it was still "early days" and only time would tell if everyone respected the ban.

An application was being prepared to officially enforce the rāhui, he said.