Fishing practices in the Hauraki Gulf are damaging fish stocks and endangering endangered animals, such as Bryde’s whale, experts say.
At the end of November, Auckland iwi NgÄti PÄoa saw their calls for a rÄhui to be placed around officially recognized Waiheke Island, but the fact that they had to intervene in the first place speaks to the larger issue, Sam Woolford said. , responsible for the LegaSea program.
RÄhui is necessary to rebalance the health of the ecosystem – without which there will be no fish to catch for recreational fishermen, he said.
“There is no quick fix – putting our hopes in a handful of marine reserves is a really risky position to take.”
* Concerned that Coromandel’s two-year-old scallop rÄhui could squeeze other Hauraki Gulf fisheries
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* Hauraki Gulf Marine Protected Areas have been extended, but no action on dredging
Commercial bottom dredging and the mass capture of recreational snapper are some of the practices described by Woolford as those that could be modified to have a profound effect on the health of the Gulf.
The consequences of not doing so have already impacted species at the top of the food chain, such as Bryde’s Whale, he said.
“Why do whales come to the Hauraki Gulf? Food. For all the food. If we remove these key species, everything is impacted, âhe said.
Woolford suggested a review of the quota management system as a first step towards creating better fishing practices.
The whole system needs to be rethought, he said, not only with the quantities but with the fishing techniques, as commercial bottom trawling meant huge amounts of baitfish, a key part of the diet. food from Bryde’s whales, were taken out of the ocean as bycatch and sold at low prices. .
He said some recreational fishing crews have done their research on how to leave little impact on the environment, but casual crews may not know what effect their gear has.
LegaSea’s program, Fish Care, talks about ‘suicide hooks’ and ‘circle hooks’ and how each requires a different technique to make sure the fish don’t swallow the hook – in which case they don’t. there is no chance of releasing them without lasting damage. to the animal.
âSuicide hooksâ are the style that a lot of people would have grown up with, where you have to strike to get the hook. With a “circle hook,” the fisherman winds up the line once the bait enters the fish’s mouth, sliding the hook into the corner of the fish’s jaw as it moves.
NgÄti PÄoa has been concerned about the lack of kaimoana around Waiheke Island for many years. After a hui and discussion with the community, the iwi took matters into their own hands and established a rÄhui in January. On December 1, the government banned the harvest of scallops, mussels, crayfish and pÄua around the coast.
Giving the region a two-year hiatus will help regenerate these struggling species, said NgÄti PÄoa spokesperson Herearoha Skipper, but the real benefit was giving them two years to put a long-term plan in place.
âPeople can no longer go out and collect the food they would have when they were children. It got to the point where it [the ecosystem] would have collapsed, âshe said.
The species couldn’t be expected to magically reappear in the years to come, unless something changed, she said.
In addition to the problems related to fishing, there were also issues with sedimentation in the kaimoana beds, climate change and the increase in population in the country, which resulted in more mouths to feed.
Communication would be a key tool in helping summer travelers understand how they can do their part by respecting the rÄhui and leaving the kaimoana beds alone, Skipper said.
She said they would work with businesses in the hot spots to keep them informed, so they can pass it on to visitors.
Recreational fishing is part of New Zealand’s social fabric, said Bubba Cook, WWF’s tuna program manager in the Western and Central Pacific, and it can be done ethically, but it requires change.
Cook recommended a free, easy-to-obtain license for recreational anglers that would provide a better understanding of how many anglers are on the water – and therefore a better understanding of how many fish are being caught.
“How can you tell how much [fish] comes out of the ocean? It’s having an impact, but we don’t know the extent of that impact.
Anytime you remove too much of an important species from an ecosystem, such as snapper or crayfish, the resulting impact on either side of the food chain is major as the top half loses its food source and the bottom half loses its food source. there is no predator to control the numbers.
Krista Van Der India, Head of Marine Species at WWF, previously said Things that declining fish stocks meant Bryde’s whale had to change its diet to adopt mostly zooplankton – which contains lots of microplastics.
Work is underway, as part of the Whale Tales Art Trail Project which begins in Auckland on January 22, to better educate the public on ways to reduce their impact on the ocean and the endangered species found there.