The cockle beds of Whangateau are unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.
Surveys in January 2016 and again in March this year indicate that the cockle population is increasing in key areas of the harbour, and densities are higher than have previously been observed in the survey series.
However, Ministry of Primary Industries Inshore fisheries manager Steve Halley says the number and density of large cockles (greater than 30mm) appears to have decreased, which is an important consideration, given these are the cockles that are generally targeted for harvest.
“Given the low levels of large cockle and pipi there are no plans to reopen the fishery this coming summer,” Mr Halley says. “The increasing levels of small cockles is encouraging and the site will continue to be monitored.”
The cockle beds have been closed since 2010, following a die-off event in 2009. While fishing is only one of the factors affecting the shellfish populations, Mr Halley says it is important to consider whether fishing will add extra pressure to a recovering population.
“Pipi have always been of relatively low and variable density at Whangateau. The surveys confirm that large pipi (greater than 50mm) remain relatively scarce.”