Voluntary move will leave paua for longer

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 05:00 29/07/2014

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Marlborough commercial paua divers are voluntarily increasing the minimum catch size from October.

Barry Chandler, chairman of Paua MAC7, said yesterday the minimum size would be increased to 126 millimetres from October 1 and further increased to 127mm next year.

The recreational diver minimum size would remain at 125mm.

The voluntary restrictions on the commercial take at Ocean Bay and Robin Hood Bay remain at 127mm, and the area south of the Wairau River to the Clarence River on the southern Marlborough coast would stay at 130mm, Chandler said.

Voluntarily raising the minimum catch size would enhance the fishery by leaving mature paua in the water longer, and allowing more spawning to take place, he said.

It also meant the actual number of paua harvested under the total allowable commercial catch was lower, as the individual fish were bigger.

"It's also good news for the recreational sector and it means they should enjoy better access to 125mm fish. We recognise this is a shared fishery and we all need to play our part."

The conservation measures had been developed by PauaMAC7, the commercial stakeholder organisation representing the large majority of quota owners in the coastal area from the Clarence River on the east coast northwards across the Sounds and down to Kahurangi Point on the West Coast.

The total PauaMAC7 commercial catch was 187 tonnes across 68 quota owners, 72 divers and approximately 35 boats and was a significant contributor to the local economy.

Chandler said the fishery was in good heart but Paua MAC7 took a conservative view in maintaining sustainability.

"We are progressive in our approach and are determined to protect the resource long term, he said.

"We have introduced data loggers, electronic units worn by divers, that record where every single paua is taken from along with a wealth of other information such as dive time, catch effort, swell and weather conditions. This allows us to analyse all the information to aid management and fishing decisions in spreading the catch effort.

"This is a sophisticated advance, funded by the industry, and we are working towards 100 per cent coverage.

"Other local initiatives include annual reseeding, voluntary shelving of catch entitlement, relocation of stunted stocks and diver training and accreditation," Chandler said.

The wider Paua Industry Council is now employing a fulltime marine scientist, Tom McCowan, to assist with research and help the industry to better understand the resource, Chandler said. cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

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- The Marlborough Express

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