Scallops under threat

Scallop gathering in Kaipara Harbour may be banned for another year.

Local iwi have called for the continued closure of the beds because of concerns regarding depletion of shellfish numbers.

A Ministry Of Fisheries spokesperson says Section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996 allows an area to be temporarily closed to fishing, in response to localised depletion of fisheries resources.

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton closed the recreational scallop fishery for three years from 2006 at the request of the Kaipara Harbour Sustainable Fisheries Trust and Environ Holdings – Te Uri O Hau – to help rebuild shellfish numbers.

However, the scallop season was officially opened by the ministry in Northland on September 1.

But Mikaera Miru, a member of Te Uri O Hau Wai O Tea Marae, says since the opening of the scallop fishery, he has seen lots of people collecting undersized scollops in the harbour.

"Many of them are skinny and underdeveloped, it is incompetent management of the fisheries organisation to open up the scallop season."

Mr Miru says he had been aboard a ministry survey ship which found only a small supply of scallops in the harbour.

"From my assessment of that venture the scallop season should be closed indefinitely," he says.

A ministry spokesperson says the Kaipara fishery closure is a customary one and is not part of the recreational regulations, so while the normal season may have started on September 1, the Kaipara closure didn’t end until September 14, making that date the start of the season.

The scallop season was now open until Mr Anderton made a decision, and with it being election year it was difficult to determine when that might be, the spokesperson says.

"But it is something that we want to address as soon as possible."

The decision is expected to take into account the research done by the ministry team last year, to assess scallop numbers.

Mr Miru says he was consulted and asked to join the team on the survey ship as an experienced fisherman and member of Te Uri O Hau.

"The vessel was only able to find two small scallop beds and we found only a small number of scallops in those two areas."

The ministry’s report – Monitoring S186A closures, A Kaipara Harbour Scallop Survey - confirms Mr Miru’s assessment.

The report’s conclusion says anecdotal information indicates that beds have declined considerably in the last 40 years, with particularly strong decline in the last decade.

The main beds appear to be limited and the survey found only two areas of high catch rates.

Apart from those beds historically fished, there appear to be no other large scallop beds of dense populations within the harbour.

There is little evidence of large numbers of juvenile scallops in the population rebuilding beds at this time.

The ministry says a follow-up survey is being considered for funding.

Dargaville News