Forest & Bird is deeply disappointed that bottom trawling, dredging and Danish seining will still be allowed under the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan, released in draft form last week.
“We need to move beyond ripping up the seafloor to catch food. Bottom-contact fishing has no place in Tīkapa Moana, which is an ecosystem in crisis,” says Bianca Ranson, Forest & Bird’s Hauraki Gulf Coordinator.
“Scallop beds across the Gulf have collapsed, and yet this Plan would still allow dredging? This fishing method is like taking a bulldozer through the Waitākere Ranges to harvest mushrooms.
“Continuing to dredge in a ‘marine park’ shouldn’t even be an option. Bottom trawling, dredging and Danish seining must all end in the Gulf if we are to restore its mauri.”
Forest & Bird is pleased to see objectives addressing sedimentation from land-based activities and supporting greater marine protection in the Gulf. The Plan also includes important steps towards putting the ecosystem at the core of managing fisheries.
“Everything is connected in an ecosystem, and we can’t continue managing fisheries as individual discrete species,” says Ranson.
An example of this interconnectedness is the explosion of kina barrens and decimation of kelp forests as a result of over-harvesting of snapper and rock lobsters.
“A recent High Court decision in Northland found that decision-makers must consider effects on marine ecosystems when setting rock lobster catch limits,” says Ranson. “A kina management plan for the Gulf must also consider the causes of kina barrens, not just their impacts.”
Forest & Bird also welcomes management objectives addressing forage fish, which are key to ensuring a healthy food chain. “Forage fish are species like pilchard that are often sold as bait,” says Ranson. “But they’re also an important food source for wildlife. We need to make sure our dolphins, whales, seabirds and larger fish species have kai to eat.
“At the same time, we need to make sure our precious marine mammals and seabirds aren’t being killed as a result of fishing. That’s why achieving zero bycatch, as articulated in Te Mana o Te Taiao, is an important goal to implement in the Gulf – it’s a hotspot for rare and threatened species, like the tāiko black petrel.”
Forest & Bird says these management objectives must be backed by sufficient resourcing to turn the tide on the Gulf’s decline.
“But unless we stop ripping up seafloor habitats via bottom trawling and dredging, the mauri of Tīkapa Moana will remain diminished,” says Ranson.
The Fisheries Plan for the Hauraki Gulf will need to do five things to restore the mauri of the Gulf:
Stop destructive fishing methods including bottom trawling, Danish seining and tipa (scallop) dredging in the Hauraki Gulf
Reverse kina barrens to restore kelp forests
Adopt a zero bycatch goal to protect seabirds, marine mammals and other marine life
Ensure abundant forage fish for seabirds and marine mammals
Support MPI to work with councils to reduce sedimentation.