© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2024

Threat to paua as collectors over-harvest shellfish beds

The ban on recreational paua collection on parts of Kaikoura's coastline would last until late November.  Wolfgang K, Wikimedia Commons

Paua collectors are "caning" the fishery on Banks Peninsula and the Marlborough Sounds as they hunt for the delicacy after the Kaikoura earthquake.

The commercial paua industry says recreational collectors are threatening to wreck paua stocks on Banks Peninsula and at Port Underwood, in the sounds. 

The November quake uplifted Kaikoura paua habitats and people are harvesting the shellfish elsewhere, said Paua Industry Council chief executive Jeremy Cooper.

"They're (recreational collectors) now going to Port Underwood and it's the same in Banks Peninsula...We've got two parts of the recreational fishery that are just getting caned to bits."

Cooper, who represents the commercial paua industry, said that "hammering" paua hotspots could affect the shellfish population for a decade.

"People are still catching the same amount of paua but in a different place, and that is really concerning for those areas."

An estimated 50 per cent of the 91-tonne Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) could be collected by recreational collectors between Blenheim and Christchurch before the Kaikoura coastline was closed, Cooper said.

He said the commercial industry had not harvested the 45-tonnes of paua within the closed zone because it would kill the life-cycle in the fishery that was not damaged in the quake.

However, they could not prevent recreational harvesters from taking paua. 

Cooper said lowering the recreational paua quota with Iwi-issued rāhui could be the best option to prevent paua depletion in affected areas.

"[Iwi] can actually implement it relatively quickly compared with the process that MPI [Ministry of Primary Industries] would have to go through.''

University of Canterbury biological science lecturer John Pirker said it was difficult to predict how the Banks Peninsula population was affected.

He said a change in quota regulation may be necessary to prevent increased pressures in the area, but there would need to be consultation with recreational fishers, Iwi and the commercial industry first.

"It impacts everyone," Pirker said.