Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced a temporary closure of shellfish and seaweed harvesting along the earthquake-affected east coast of the South Island, and a $2 million package to investigate the impact of the 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,” says Mr Guy.
“The earthquakes have had a devastating impact on the coastline, raising it by up to four metres in places in an area nearly 100 kilometres 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, so there will be a one month closure for this fishery and we will take a flexible approach. Chinese New Year is a significant earner for local cray fisherman and if we determine the stock could support some extraction without adverse effects, this income would be of huge importance for the local community.
“The research funding will be used to investigate the impacts of the earthquakes on the coastal environmental, assess the remaining fisheries resources and develop recovery measures. This will be a critical determination in the future of these fisheries.
“In normal circumstances we would recover the cost of this scientific work from the commercial industry, however given the exceptional circumstances we think it's appropriate for the Government to pay 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 realise 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.
“Officials will continue to liaise with local commercial fishers, industry bodies, the Kaikoura Marine Guardians, local iwi and recreational fishers throughout this process, ensuring all stakeholders are kept fully informed.
“I also want to thank the many volunteers who have given up their time to help relocate paua.”
In terms of commercial sale, crayfish is the most valuable stock in the area with an annual harvest value around $23 million. Paua is worth between $1.2 - $1.7 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 fin-fish are excluded from the closures as they are not believed to be adversely affected.
SOURCE: Office of Nathan Guy