Ian Steele, on his boat The Don, wants to see community co-management of Taranaki’s coastline and fisheries. (File photo).
A proposed two-year fishing and seafood harvesting ban along the Taranaki coastline has widespread support from the Taranaki fishing community.
Taranaki Iwi’s hapū seeks the legal ban from the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries under Section 186a of the Fisheries Act.
As it stands, the proposed closure would extend two nautical miles offshore and cover 300 square meters. This would prevent people from taking all shellfish, including pāua, kina and pūpū (cat’s eye), lobster (crayfish), crabs, octopus, anemones and conger eel.
Ian Steele, chairman of the New Plymouth Spearfishing and Sport Fishing Club, said the ban had general support from Taranaki Fishing Clubs, after talks with kaumatua.
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Steele said there had been discussions about halving the proposed two nautical mile distance to allow for the taking of crayfish in deeper waters. This would still protect the pāua beds and prevent areas north and south of the closed area from being overfished.
A customary rāhui has been in place for months, following alarm among coastal hapū over the summer that the area’s pāua beds and other shell habitats were being laid bare by hundreds of people traveling in large groups from outside the region.
Te Kahui o Taranaki Iwi president Jacqui King said their goal was to put the shutdown in place before the high pre-Christmas paūa tides.
Steele said the two-year closure would allow for the development of an Ahu Moana approach, where mana whenua and the community work together in a formal partnership.
Closing Section 186a was one of the few tools open to Taranaki Iwi to force the hand of the wider community to sit up and take notice of the ongoing issues, he said.
“If the closure of S186a is approved by the Crown, there is a window of time to put in place a management approach like Ahu Moana.
“We can all use the opportunity created by Taranaki Iwi’s application – an opportunity to manage for future generations. Such an approach could be the starting point for a broader management of the Taranaki coastline.
A similar management plan is being developed in the Coromandel by Ngati Hei which includes mana whenua, recreational fishermen, divers and spearfishers and conservationists, supported by experts.
“Such an approach is only possible if all parties come together around the table, with the best interests of our environment and future generations at heart,” Steele said.
The Section 186a closure proposal is open for submissions until September 12.