Protection of marine resources and biodiversity within the Bay of Islands is driving a community-run campaign.
The project was launched in 2010 and aims to protect some ecologically significant areas within a network of marine protected zones. The areas will be subject to generational review and will be locally determined and managed.
A hui at Te Rawhiti involved various groups - notably Ngati Kuta, Patukeha, Fish Forever, Living Waters, Project Island Song and the Eastern Bay of Islands Preservation Society - all united in the same purpose: "To find a holistic, inclusive approach to safeguarding the ecologically, culturally and historically rich environment and supporting the protection of traditional Maori customary fishing grounds within the Eastern Bay of Islands."
Some initial areas were identified as potential sites after a period of community consultation in 2010-2011. They fell within the boundaries of Patukeha and Ngati Kuta at Te Rawhiti and include Maunganui Bay.
Since then there have been many talks between Fish Forever and the two hapu, building a better understanding of each other's aspirations and concerns.
Hapu have maintained a traditional harvesting ban at Maunganui Bay on the Cape Brett Peninsula since March 2009, due to concern about the depletion of fish stocks.
It was first closed to all fishing except kina in December 2010 for a two-year period and late last year the Ministry for Primary Industries announced a further two-year closure.
Ngati Kuta and Patukeha ki Te Rawhiti requested the extension as they believe more time is required to allow depleted stocks to continue rebuilding.
Kina was excluded from the closure because information shows they are abundant in Maunganui Bay.
Hapu spokesman Robert Willoughby says they are encouraged by the widespread support from the community for the initiative.
"Maunganui Bay has always been an important customary fishing area for our people.
"We consider that this further temporary closure will assist with regeneration of fish stocks in the area, not only for customary purposes but also for the benefit of the wider community.
"It will be especially helpful to species that are continuing to establish around the artificial reef formed by scuttling the ex-frigate Waitaha/Canterbury in the Bay in 2007," Mr Willoughby says.
● Maunganui Bay (Deep Water Cove) will remain closed until November 30, 2014 to the take of all fish, aquatic life and seaweed, except kina.
Fines up to a maximum of $100,000 apply.
Members of the public are encouraged to call 0800 4 POACHER - 0800 476 224 - if they see anything suspicious.
FILM SCREENING There will be a final attempt to bring together 25 countries to agree to a huge marine protection area for the Ross Sea in July. Fish Forever will host a screening of The Last Ocean, an award-winning documentary that portrays the beauty and special ecological value of this region on January 31. The screening is downstairs in the Turner Centre. The bar opens 5.30pm and the film begins 6pm. Wide screen projection sponsored by Music Workshop. Entry $10 – $5 concessions – purchased at the door.
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