Coromandel fishery impacts highlighted by experts at community meeting – New Zealand Herald


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Fish like this striped marlin can be measured in the water and released - so why are we still taking them?Organisers of a forum in Whitianga on Saturday featuring leading marine scientists, conservationists and iwi say they know there's a risk they'll miss the most important audience when they discuss how to manage human impact on the Coromandel fishery.The Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club hosts its snapper tournament on Saturday — one of more than 10 tournaments held during the year.Whangamata Ocean Sports Club is also hosting its AGM on this day."We would like to think the recreational fishers out of town would come and want to listen to this but there's a big chance they may not," says Sharyn Morcom, who's among a handful of residents who organised the event."We have at least got the commercial sector interested. With a lot of our commercial fishing families having put work into conservation practices over the years, they're fully aware that it's in their best interests to keep the oceans in that state of health so they are coming along."The event was inspired by the Opito Bay community and Ngati Hei working together to place a rāhui, or no-take order, on the severely depleted scallop fishery at the settlement north of Whitianga.Speakers include Ngati Hei kaumātua Joe Davis, marine scientist Dr Tim Haggitt and Hauraki Gulf Forum CEO Alex Rogers, who will share facts and observations on the state of the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel coastline.A panel discussion will follow with ideas sought on marine protection.Sir Michael Fay will also attend in support of his conservation aspirations for Ahuahu/Great Mercury Island and documentary producer Mike Bhana for LegaSea."Like a lot of things, communities do need to take the bull by the horns," says Sharyn."We need to bring the community together to be educated on what exactly is going on in our waters and what we need to change in our practices, as people who enjoy those waters and resources."The scallop rāhui extends 12 nautical miles and down the entire eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula.Ngati Hei kaumātua Joe Davis says the iwi has taken a soft approach, and more species require regular no-take protection on the Coromandel coast."We've taken a softly softly approach, one species at a time. We should be doing something to protect crayfish too. The crayfish fishery has been abused as well, the wild stock has got to be left alone. Every 10 years of harvesting there should be five years of leaving them alone, because it needs a rest," he said.Sharyn Morcom said documentaries such as Seaspiricy and The Price of Fish, by documentary maker Mike Bhana, had "increased the appetite" for safeguarding the fishery resource."This is critical now. You would have to be a bit of a lowlife to ignore that rahui. In my personal view and that of my colleagues and friends, why do we wait until it gets to that critical point?"The Hauraki Gulf State of the Gulf report has demonstrated that, all we can do is bring people in who are trained in this field and hear what they have to say."The Hauraki Gulf Forum is the statutory co-governance entity responsible for the management of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.In presenting their plan developed in collaboration with LegaSea, kaumātua Joe Davis challenged the forum by stating that Māori had "their tools", like rāhui, but "where are your tools?"At the same meeting, the forum confirmed its policy to remove all industrial bottom trawling and scallop dredging harvest techniques from the entire Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.They say years of bottom contact fishing techniques have contributed to the decline of shellfish populations and the destruction of these ecosystems.Fishing boats head out for tournaments including the ever popular Nauti Girls in Whangamata organised by the Whangamata Ocean Sports Fishing Club. Photo / Jason BerryAnother organiser of the Saturday event, scientist and teacher Thomas Everth, spent time at wharves and boat ramps this year and says he's observed how the Coromandel's popularity for recreational fishing has increased dramatically as people stay within New Zealand's borders."The numbers of boats, the utes and the trailers, the whole thing is growing and growing, getting bigger and bigger. The pressure on the environment has been rapidly growing since the development of the Whitianga waterways. You're seeing launches that can go out and fish for bigger fish."He said the scallop rāhui showed what can be accomplished when working together."We need to widen our view, and consider what else we can do to protect this precious coastal ocean."The Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club, one of the oldest game fishing clubs in New Zealand, had no comment on the initiative, but would be advising its members of the meeting through its newsletter on Thursday.Tournaments hosted by Coromandel fishing clubs offer prize pools up to $100,000 each, and Whangamata Ocean Sports Club manager Phil Keogh said there had been local criticism of the amount of prize money offered at tournaments.Fish like this striped marlin can be measured in the water and released - so why are we still taking them?Clubs needed to host these under their constitution, he said, and also gave money away in the community, such as $10,000 toward breast cancer NZ raised on the weekend.He said clubs are trying to encourage tag and release for more species, an example being its $20,000 prize for tag and release at the club's A1 Homes Classic.Recreational fishers had a role to play and needed to ensure they did not take more than they need, he said."As a Kiwi it should be our right to catch fish to fill the table, and recreational fishers play a part in that. There is an issue with every fish stock. Something needs to be done and what we're trying to do is educate our members and the public."Club members are given the latest research on estimated fish stocks and a portion of all membership fees fund research through the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, he said.The NZSFC has instigated its first 12 month catch and release measure championship, that gives anglers points for the longest fish in various species, photographed, uploaded to an app and released back to the sea.Keogh says some recreational fishers refuse to believe the research on fishery decline."But our members are talking about this. You're starting to hear around the bar leaner that it's not as easy to catch a feed like it was 10 years ago."- Protecting the sea on our doorstep: 3pm to 5pm on Saturday, June 5 at the C3 Church Hall, Whitianga. Entry is free, koha is welcome to help cover costs.
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