Forest & Bird acknowledges closure of the scallop fisheries in Northland, the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel as a significant step towards protecting tipa (scallops), announced today by the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries.
The Minister has decided to fully close scallop fisheries in Northland and much of the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel, where stocks have essentially collapsed. However, two areas in the Gulf, off the coast of Te Hauturu o Toi Little Barrier Island and in the Colville Channel, are not included in the closures.
"We strongly support the closure of the scallop fishery in Northland, but are deeply disappointed that areas of the fishery in the Hauraki Gulf remain open to ransacking by commercial fishers,” says Kevin Hague, Chief Executive of Forest & Bird.
These areas open to commercial dredging are the only remaining healthy scallop beds in the region and are important for repopulating devastated scallop beds across the Gulf.
The areas also lie within a tikanga rāhui placed by Ngāti Manuhiri on Waitangi Day this year. The iwi currently has a proposal for a temporary closure (rāhui) under section 186A of the Fisheries Act sitting with the Minister.
"The decision to allow dredging for scallops to continue in the area of Ngāti Manuhiri's tikanga rāhui shows disregard for iwi leadership and efforts to protect their rohe moana. It undermines what could have been a great decision," says Bianca Ranson, Hauraki Gulf Coordinator at Forest & Bird.
"We are concerned that these last remaining areas, if left open, will be hit hard by the tipa dredgers and this could do long-term damage in an area that Ngāti Manuhiri is trying hard to protect."
“The Minister needs to urgently approve the Ngāti Manuhiri application for a temporary closure so that their tikanga rāhui can be enforced, and to prevent the destruction of these important scallop beds,” says Ranson.
Ngāti Manuhiri say they are deeply disappointed by the Minister’s decision to keep tipa fisheries open for commercial purposes at Te Hauturu o Toi and Colville Channel.
“We have seen constant and increased commercial activity in our waters since closures were approved at the East Coromandel and Waiheke areas and we know that our tipa will not survive this assault and battery," says Nicola MacDonald, Chief Executive of the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust.
Recently, Forest & Bird sent an open letter to the Minister urging closure of the SCA 1 (Northland) and SCA CS (Coromandel and Hauraki Gulf) fisheries.
“Allowing our scallops to decline towards such critically low levels is a disgrace. It’s a symptom of the dire state and poor management of our shared oceans, particularly in the Hauraki Gulf," says Hague.
Alongside Ngāti Manuhiri, at least three other iwi and hapū have already taken action to protect tipa through tikanga rāhui, initiatives that Forest & Bird strongly supports.