Local Kaitiaki [guardians] held a hui in December to discuss putting a ban on taking mussels from the northern area in the Bay of Islands, until they regrow. Consultation with the local community was largely supportive and now we await a Ministerial decision.
LegaSea attended the December hui and expressed support for this initiative as there have been concerns for several years that the mussel population around the Black Rocks is disappearing.
There are mixed views on what is causing the depletion, which is noticeable in some areas while other patches remain largely unchanged. At this stage there is no firm evidence whether there is a single cause, or a combination of harvesting, poor water quality, sedimentation and contaminants from land use.
Whatever the cause, the Kaitiaki responsible for the Te Puna Mataitai in the northern Bay of Islands have asked the Minister to approve a bylaw to stop anyone from taking green-lipped, blue and black mussels from within the Mataitai. Mussel stocks will be monitored and the bylaw reviewed in three years to check if it is still required.
Fisheries New Zealand helped the Kaitiaki with the bylaw and conducted a public consultation process in late 2019. We expect the Ministry would have provided advice to the Minister by now, so a decision from Stuart Nash could be announced soon.
A positive outcome of the December hui was the strong public support given to the Kaitiaki by the community. The Bay of Islands Swordfish Club, Spearfishing NZ and local group Fish Forever expressed appreciation and support for the initiative.
LegaSea will be working with the Kaitiaki, Fisheries NZ and these groups to raise public awareness about the bylaw and the need to protect our marine environment from all stressors.