Opponents of Fisheries Minister David Parker’s recent decision to leave Hauturu Little Barrier and the Colville Channel open for commercial scallop dredging, despite closing the rest of the Coromandel and Northland grounds, are not giving up their fight.
Iwi, conservation bodies, fishing groups and maritime organisations had been hopeful that the minister would place a blanket ban on scallop fishing across the Hauraki Gulf, not least since a rahui tapu was laid over the gulf at Tawharanui Regional Park on Waitangi Day by Ngati Manuhiri. Similar rahui in the past have led to the government placing temporary bans on fishing or shellfish harvesting to allow stocks to recover.
However, although Minister Parker conceded that the state of national scallop stocks was “parlous” and they needed drastic action to recover, he decided to allow some “limited ongoing harvest” using commercial and recreational dredging in those two local areas.
Sustainable fishing lobby group LegaSea said leaving the areas open was risky at best, as they were important spawning grounds, and criticised the minister for seemingly dismissing the community-backed rahui.
“We would like to see the minister close the remaining two beds and give all of the gulf a chance to recover quickly and reopen one day,” he said. “These areas are actually vital to the recovery of scallop populations around the wider Hauraki Gulf, the Eastern Coromandel Peninsula and also the Bay of Plenty.”
Ngati Manuhiri Settlement Trust chief executive Nicola McDonald said leaving the Hauturu and Colville Channel beds open was simply not acceptable.
“We cannot allow the continued depletion of our taonga species for commercial gain,” she said. “This is not something that we will accept in our rohe moana. It’s not enough until the whole of the gulf is protected.”
McDonald said Ngati Manuhiri had followed the placing of its rahui with a formal application to the minister for a temporary ban on scallop fishing in the Hauraki Gulf under Section 186a of the Fisheries Act, a process that was ongoing and would include public submissions.
“When public consultation becomes open, Ngati Manuhiri will be asking our communities, other mana whenua and stakeholders to write in support, so the minister is under no illusion that there are a large number of New Zealanders who feel as strongly about this as we do,” she said.
“In some ways, it’s fortunate that Ngati Manuhiri persevered and submitted the application because it gives us another opportunity to revisit this decision.”