The Minister of Fisheries is tinkering around the edges of crayfish management while the crayfish population on Auckland’s doorstep collapses towards extinction, says Forest & Bird.
The conservation organisation is calling for the wider Hauraki Gulf to Bay of Plenty cray-fishing area (known as CRA2) to be urgently closed for three years to allow the species to start recovering.
“The wider Hauraki Gulf to Bay of Plenty crayfish population has undergone a significant decline. Without an urgent end to fishing pressure, crayfish could become functionally extinct throughout the entire area within a few years,” says Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Goddard.
Forest & Bird is challenging the value of consulting on whether to halve the recreational daily crayfish quota from six to three, when the population in the wider Hauraki Gulf area is at critically low levels.
“The crayfish in the area have been overfished down to almost nothing," says Ms Goddard.
“We have reached a point where crayfish are so rare in some areas they are considered functionally extinct. Asking recreational fishers to take only three a day, when they often can’t find any, is pointless.
"Similarly, when the commercial crayfish quota was reduced early in 2018, the quota wasn’t able to be caught. The crayfish just aren’t there,” says Ms Goddard.
Forest & Bird says recreational fishers, iwi, and scientists have been warning of the crayfish collapse for many years, to little effect.
“The Minister and New Zealand First need to stand up to the commercial fishing industry, and get serious about whether New Zealanders will have a healthy Hauraki Gulf ecosystem with crayfish in future years. At this rate, they won’t.
“For Forest & Bird it isn’t about recreational versus commercial rights, nor is it about the economics — it’s about the health of our oceans and taking sustainability seriously," says Ms Goddard.
“Crayfish are a hugely important part of the ecosystem. Without crays in sufficient numbers, the ocean floor and reefs are swarmed by kina which destroy kelp forest and other habitat for fish and marine life. The flow on effects are very serious.”
Notes for journalists:
- Spiny, rock, or red lobsters (Jasus edwardsii) are also more commonly known as crayfish.
- The term 'functionally extinct' means the population of a species is reduced so greatly, it is no longer able to perform its ecological role.
- Dr Nick Shears at the University of Auckland Leigh Marine Laboratory has conducted recent research looking at crayfish densities in three sites (in the process of being published). The research finds crayfish densities outside marine reserves are estimated at less than 10 percent of historic levels in the reserves. Outside New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve at Leigh, crayfish densities are estimated at just 3 percent of historic levels inside the reserve.