Five years after the earthquake that devastated the sea floor along the Kaikoura coast, people are once again able to collect boas from its shores.
Diver David Ray caught some boas on the first day of the season. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
The fisheries reopened on 1 December for a period of three months and will be closely monitored to gauge the impact on the population.
Pāua diver David Rae was among those who took to sea on the first day of the season.
Happy first day in some time. Five long years we haven’t been able to dive here and have always appreciated the reasons why. But now we are happy to be back and everything is looking good.
“It’s like turning back the clock, big, cute fish and lots of it.”
Bawa diver David Ray. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
Ray has been practicing commercial diving since 1987, along the Kaikoura coast and in the Chatham Islands, and is Vice President of PauaMac3 Administrative Action Committees.
He can remember the devastation inflicted on the coast when the sun rose after the November 14 earthquake, five years earlier.
“It was a very frightening sight, in fact, there were too many deaths and displacements and it was very disturbing… We all felt devastated.
“Moreover, everyone had their own issues with housing, electricity, and water supply, but then having your income slip away on you too was a double whammy.”
Rai is also a member of Te Korowai O Te Tai Ō Marokura, a group that advocates for the use and protection of Kaikoura’s marine environment.
CEO Rachel Vaughan said it was clear after the earthquake that the fisheries needed to close so the environment could recover, but that part of the community’s grief was related to the fact that they could no longer collect shellfish from the coast.
Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura Rachel Vaughan chair. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
Te Korowai sought feedback from the community and took it to the government, to lobby for the fisheries to reopen.
“There was a range of opinions, some in the community wanting to preserve and being very careful about reopening, and some people were very keen to be allowed to fish and collect shellfish, especially paua and kena again.
“People have to respect the environment and realize that they should only eat enough, because if there is a gold rush mentality, and people strip our coast, it will be evident from the monitoring that MPI is doing and unfortunately our season will be shortened.”
Many parts of the Kaikoura coast have been closed to Bawa pool since the earthquake in 2016. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
The organization works alongside the Kaikōura Marine Guardians, which was established under the Kaikōura Marine Management Act 2014 and appointed by the Ministers of Conservation and Primary Industries.
The Guardians submitted a set of recommendations to the Ministry of Primary Industries in May that led to the three-month season.
The Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, David Parker, said this was the first time a fishery had been closed as a result of an earthquake. Since then, research and monitoring have shown that Bawa has been recovering and could support some limited harvest
“The health of the fisheries will be measured before and after the initial reopening period to assess the impact on the Paua population. This will be supported by independent research on recreational fishing along the coast. This work will give us the information we need to make a decision on next steps.”
Parts of the Kaikoura coast were lifted during the earthquake, displacing Bawa and other marine life. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
The new hunting limit for recreational hunters is five black-footed pawas per day with a maximum of ten on a multi-day trip with the legal minimum remaining 125mm.
New limits on commercial catches have also been established in the recently divided quota management areas of Kaikoura and Canterbury.
Boat ramp in South Bay, Kaikoura. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
Howard Reed, MPI’s regional director of fisheries compliance, said the earthquake had dramatically altered the marine environment, with a significant loss of Bawa’s habitat.
“There have been some really good signs of recovery, we have post-earthquake recruits moving into a breeding clan. This is evident in the science that has been going on since the earthquakes.
“There’s so we’re taking a really cautious approach to reopening, so minimal bags and short lead time.”
Howard Reed, MPI’s Regional Director of Fisheries Compliance. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
Additional fishery officers will be on the ground in Kaikoura, to help communicate the rules and make sure people adhere to them.
Commercial diver, spearfisher and underwater photographer Sam Wilde would have been pleased to see the fisheries open up again so people could enjoy the resource again, but they would have liked to have seen the Bawa’s minimum size increase from 125mm.
“The way the fisheries are taken care of on the Chathams Islands and here in New Zealand the commercial limit is greater than the recreational limit and this is to help take care of the fisheries, you just have to keep the paua in the water a little longer to help them reproduce.
“It was nice to see the size limit go up to help make that happen, but at the same time, it’s great that they unlocked and they lowered the catch limit to five.”
He said he hated seeing the gains in the past five years slipped in a three-month period.
Kaikoura Hunting and Fishing was busy in the lead up to opening day with people stocking boa measuring tools, knives, and wetsuits.
Anton Evans, Director of Kaikoura Hunting and Hunting. Photo: RNZ/Samantha Gee
Director Anton Evans said it was nice to be able to welcome people back to Kaikoura after five difficult years for so many.
“It is good to see everyone and families come back and they are able to feed themselves again, and they also have an open fishery that has been closed for five years.
“So this is a teacher, it’s cool.”
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