Efforts to reverse the decline in the Chatham Islands pāua fishery are the focus of a new plan jointly agreed between government, the local community and industry.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash says the plan was developed by the PauaMAC4 Industry Association with support from the Chatham Islands community. This includes local iwi and imi (Ngāti Mutunga o Wharekauri and Moriori) and the Māori Fisheries Trust Te Ohu Kaimoana.
“The new Chatham Islands pāua fisheries plan will see more timely, transparent and localised decisions about how to manage the commercial harvesting of pāua under the quota management system,” Mr Nash says.
“The pāua fishery on the Chatham Islands is the largest commercial pāua fishery in New Zealand. It is an important food source for customary and recreational fishing. It is also a highly valued cultural resource.
“Voluntary management and decision making has been part of the pāua industry in the Chatham Islands for many years. Since 2010 quota owners have voluntarily shelved some annual catch entitlement to reduce the commercial harvest and restore the abundance of the shellfish. The new plan formalises these arrangements.
“The plan covers procedures such as handling, harvesting and landing pāua, biosecurity measures, protecting it from theft, use of underwater breathing apparatus by divers, access to the sea over private property, and even how to report shark sightings.
“During public consultation in mid-2018 all submissions supported the proposed plan and the need for the fishery to be managed on a smaller scale. This approach provides valuable local data about pāua so the rules for controlling the harvest can be adjusted accordingly. It ensures the fishery is sustainable for future generations,” Mr Nash says.
The Chatham Islands pāua plan will operate within wider management settings overseen by Fisheries New Zealand. It remains subject to the regulatory constraints of the total allowable commercial catch, and shellfish must still be of a minimum legal size. A number of performance measures will be monitored on an ongoing basis and the plan will be reviewed in five years.
It is the first localised management plan approved by a Fisheries Minister since 2007.