Commercial fishers who flagrantly dredged scallop beds while flying a pirate flag have undone the good work of communities who have tried to save the beds by observing a rahui.
In December 2020, a voluntary rāhui was laid on the eastern Coromandel coastline to protect dwindling numbers of scallops from dredging and overharvest. In February 2021 a formal two-year closure application for a wider area was made to the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, David Parker, with thousands of supportive submissions. The commercial scallop season opened on July 15 without any formal response from Parker.
Joe Davis, kaitiaki of Eastern Coromandel iwi, Ngāti Hei, said; “The whole community has come in behind our rāhui and everyone – Auckland holidaymakers, locals, visitors – have tried to save the scallop beds.
“What they are doing is not illegal, but their flag shows they know it’s immoral. There are plenty of things that are legal but that doesn’t mean they are right.
“They are flying the pirate flag while they are taking scallops from the people who have conserved them.”
Coromandel iwi Ngāti Hei, the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, Opito Bay Ratepayers Association, marine conservation group LegaSea, and local fishing clubs have blamed opportunist commercial scallop harvesting in the proposed ban area on David Parker’s lack of action.
LegaSea spokesperson, Sam Woolford said: ”Kiwis, including local hapu, who want a feed are being held hostage by a handful of people in our community. What is quota worth if there are no fish underneath it? We’re calling on those who live, visit and holiday in the Coromandel Peninsula to write to the Minister and voice your concerns. The Quota Management System is failing and the environment is suffering. We are asking the Minister to act, he is the only one who can resolve this conflict.”
Warren Maher, president of the Tairua Sport Fishing Club and board member of the NZSFC said: “We need the minister to help us save the scallop beds. No one else was fishing for scallops and then these boats come in right in front of everyone, when they know there’s an application in for an official ban and they know the population is on the edge of our ability to save it. This year, our citizen science survey revealed the beds are so decimated that divers had to swim 25m2 over historically abundant beds to find one legal scallop, and in the last five years we’ve seen our smaller regional beds disappear.”
Opito Bay Ratepayers Association, Chris Severne said: “We can only stand by and watch with breaking hearts as all the efforts by the community since Christmas are wiped out in just a few days of commercial scallop dredging. We are calling on the minister to help us.”
The Hauraki Gulf Forum has also publicly supported Ngāti Hei’s s186A application and has called on Minister Parker to remove all commercial and recreational scallop dredging from the entire Hauraki Gulf.
- On December 17 2020, Ngāti Hei of Coromandel Peninsula laid down a rāhui on Opito Bay as scallop numbers in their rohe moana continued to decline. The community supported the rāhui by calling for a voluntary ban on all scallop harvesting from Opito Bay.
- In February 2021, Ngāti Hei made an application to have the Minister approve a rāhui for a larger area on the eastern Coromandel coast. This would have enabled fisheries officers to enforce it and prevent all harvest of scallops from their rohe, between Cuvier Island down to Onemana.
- In March, this application was released for public consultation. Circa 2000 submissions were made in support of the rāhui.
- In March the findings of the citizen science dive survey was released and it reinforced the poor health of the scallop populations. Click here for more.