Forest & Bird strongly endorses the closure of the last two remaining commercial tipa/scallop beds in Aotearoa announced today by the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries. The Government has invoked emergency measures after camera-based monitoring revealed that tipa beds are likely to have collapsed.
“The tipa are the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Tīkapa Moana,” says Bianca Ranson, Forest & Bird spokesperson. “This collapse is a sign that our moana is in serious trouble. We need urgent action to save our tipa and the wider Hauraki Gulf.
“The Government failed to manage green-lipped mussels (kūtai) in the 1960s. They collapsed and haven't come back. Now we’re seeing the same story repeated with tipa.”
The collapse of this important indicator species highlights the need for significant and urgent action to restore the mauri of the Gulf, says Ranson.
“We must stop dredging and bottom trawling throughout the Gulf. These fishing methods are like taking a bulldozer and dragging it through the Waitākere Ranges to harvest mushrooms.
“We need urgent transformation of fisheries management to encompass whole ecosystems, not individual species, and we need to see much better management of agriculture, forestry and urban development to reduce coastal pollution."
The tipa beds that remained open for dredging this season, located near Te Hauturu-o-Toi Little Barrier Island and in the Colville Channel, are under a customary rāhui placed by Ngāti Manuhiri on Waitangi Day this year. The iwi's proposal for a temporary closure (rāhui) under section 186A of the Fisheries Act is still sitting with the Minister. In April, Forest & Bird urged the Minister to honour this rāhui and close the entire fishery.
“Instead, we saw another season of destructive commercial dredging ripping up the seafloor, which is just ending now. It’s disappointing we did not see action from the Minister back in April,” says Ranson.
This emergency closure, which will be in place for three months from Friday 16 December, signals the end of scallop dredging in Aotearoa.
Tipa beds at the top of the South Island in Golden Bay, Tasman Bay and Port Underwood were closed in 2017 until populations recover. East Coromandel scallop beds were closed in 2021 for two years, and the majority of scallop beds in Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel were closed earlier this year.
The Minister will decide in the April 2023 sustainability rounds whether to close the two scallop beds on a longer-term or indefinite basis, with consultation for this opening on Thursday 15 December.
Forest & Bird supports full close of the scallop fishery.
“In the wake of this shocking collapse, the Minister has no option but to close these tipa beds to fishing indefinitely,” says Ranson.
Inquiry urgently needed to understand shocking collapse
Dredging uses a metal cage that is dragged along the seafloor, decimating benthic ecosystems. But Forest & Bird understands that the impact of this destructive fishing method alone cannot explain the collapse.
Forest & Bird urges the Government to conduct a thorough assessment of all possible contributing factors and decisions that have led to this collapse. This includes fisheries management, the impact of dredging and trawling, climate change including marine heatwaves, and sedimentation. The impact of pollution from agriculture, forestry, and urban development must be examined carefully.
“The State of the Gulf reports have painted an increasingly dire picture of the health of Tīkapa Moana, and this feels like another nail in the coffin for this globally important biodiversity hotspot,” says Ranson.
“The Sea Change process has been going on for way too long. We need real action from the Government now, including establishing marine protection zones, ending destructive bottom trawling and dredging in the Gulf, and getting serious about stopping sedimentation.”