New Zealand imposes temporary fishery closures in earthquake-hit areas

Published on
November 22, 2016

A temporary closure of shellfish and seaweed harvesting along the earthquake-affected east coast of New Zealand’s South Island has been announced by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, as has a NZD 2 million (USD 1.4 million, EUR 1.3 million) package to investigate the impact of the recent earthquakes on these fisheries.

There will be an initial one-month closure of the crayfish fishery and three months for all remaining shellfish and seaweed species, confirmed Guy.

“The earthquakes have had a devastating impact on the coastline, raising it by up to 4 meters in places in an area nearly 100km long. There has been major mortality for paua and some crayfish in this area and there are concerns about the loss of habitat and what that might mean for breeding.

“We need to understand the medium- to long-term impacts on these fisheries, and in the meantime we need to be careful and temporarily stop fishing until we have a clearer picture.”

The decision follows consultation with local stakeholders and is supported by the latest scientific information from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

At this stage, officials believe the potential impacts for crayfish may be less severe than for paua, which is why there will be just a one-month closure for the fishery and a flexible approach will be taken, said Guy.

“Chinese New Year is a significant earner for local crayfisherman and if we determine the stock could support some extraction without adverse effects, this income would be of huge importance for the local community.”

Guy said that in normal circumstances, the cost of the scientific work would be met by the commercial industry, but that given the “exceptional circumstances,” the government thinks it’s appropriate it pays for this work.

“Fishing is a very important part of the local economy and community, not just for the commercial sector but also recreational and customary fishers. I acknowledge this is disappointing for locals but most people realize we need to protect this resource for the long-term. Most commercial fishing has already stopped around Kaikoura given damage to local processing facilities, boat ramps and transport links. I’m hopeful there will be opportunities for local fishermen to be involved in the independent scientific work. Some fishermen may also be eligible for the government’s small business support package announced last week,” he said.

In terms of commercial sale, crayfish is the most valuable stock in the area with an annual harvest value around NZD 23 million (USD 16.3 million, EUR 15.3 million), while paua is worth between NZD 1.2 (USD 848,406, EUR 797,667) and NZD 1.7 million (USD 1.2 million, EUR 1.1 million).

The decision by the minister is made under section 16 of the Fisheries Act 1996 and follows widespread consultation with local stakeholders over the last week.

Scampi and finfish are excluded from the closures as they are not believed to be adversely affected.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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