Pāua harvesting returns to Kaikōura

By Taroi Black

Pāua fisheries will reopen on December 1 for three months in Kaikoura for the first time since the 7.6 magnitude earthquake destroyed parts of the marine ecosystem in 2016.

It affected the local economy and community to the point of it becoming the first fishery closed as a result of an earthquake.

Since then iwi have played a major part in the recovery to implement tikanga to ensure there's a limit so the fishery won't deplete again.

“Extending the customary rights to the community and finding a way that will please the majority has been controversial.” Jason Ruawai, a commercial pāua fisherman for the local Ngāti Kuri hapū says.

He spent years following the devastation of pāua fishing beds, which forced recreational practices to close, while iwi and community worked on rebuilding its pāua population. However, some areas aren't recoverable because the seabed had been lifted by a metre above sea level.

So, Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker is taking a careful approach by setting a limit of five pāua per person and an accumulation limit of 10 pāua per person for a multi-day trip. The minimum legal size of 125mm will remain.

There are also new cautious commercial catch limits too in the subdivided areas in both Kaikōura and Canterbury over its quota management.

“Commercial fishers will also operate under a new fisheries plan, which takes an adaptive approach and includes the collection of comprehensive fine-scale information and monitoring,” Parker says.

The reopening will not only monitor how much recreational pāua divers catch but it will also apply to commercial fishers too, and “the catch will be 23,000 kilos which is 23 tons. So, that will be half of what you could get prior to the earthquake,” Ruawai says.

The 2019/2020 annual report, Kaikōura Marine Guardians, advised the government the loss of habitat for pāua has meant more action on resettlement and recruitment was needed.

It has led the community and iwi partner Ngai Tahu to give priority to sustainability because of the earthquake.

“It's a conservative opening, leaning to more confidence in the future, using science and a figure that's appropriate,” Ruawai says.