Marine groups welcome decision to save New Zealand’s last scallops

March 29, 2022
Media release March 29, 2022 Iwi, recreational fishers, marine conservation groups and the community say the closure of most of New Zealand’s last remaining scallop beds, around Auckland and Northland is a dramatic last ditch effort to rebuild populations. It is also a damning indictment of the quota management system and environmental management that has allowed the species’s decimation. There are now just five tonnes of scallops allowed to be commercially harvested from New Zealand waters – from the Colville Channel and Te Hauturu o Toi [Little Barrier] – from what was once a thriving nationwide fishery. But beds around Te Hauturu o Toi [Little Barrier] are a vital source of broodstock for other scallop beds around the Hauraki Gulf. And after growing community concern about localised scallop bed destruction the area is already covered by a rāhui laid by Ngati Manuhiri on Waitangi Day. Ngāti Manuhiri CEO Nicola MacDonald said: “Leaving out beds off Te Hauturu o Toi [Little Barrier] is simply not acceptable. We cannot allow the continued depletion of our taonga species for commercial gain. This is not something that we will accept in our rohe moana. We call on the Minister to fully support the 186a application submitted by Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust to close the tipa [scallop] fisheries.“ Allan Davidson, New Zealand Underwater Association. “Nationwide Little Barrier and Colville are the last areas of any real density, and yet we still haven’t learned from the past two decades. We’re going to allow commercial fishers to concentrate their effort on these remaining beds. How is this management?” Ngati Hei matua Joe Davis said: “Scallops are the ‘canary in the coalmine’. They indicate a much more substantial issue that requires systemic change. These issues are replicated across other taonga species such as hapuku and tarakihi up and down the coast.” NZ Sport Fishing Council Bob Gutsell said: “Closures of these last two areas make the scallops the first nationwide fishery to be almost wholly shut down. How much worse does it have to get before we can admit that the Quota Management System is failing?” LegaSea CEO Sam Woolford said: “The most recent NIWA scallop survey indicated 93 percent of the Hauraki Gulf’s scallop population has gone in the last ten years. The greed and destruction we’re seeing under the QMS means an entire species is close to being wiped out.” “Allowing our scallops to decline towards such critically low levels is a disgrace. It’s a symptom of the dire state and poor management of our shared oceans, particularly in the Hauraki Gulf. The decision to allow dredging for scallops to continue in the area of Ngāti Manuhiri’s tikanga rāhui undermines what could have been a great decision,” says Kevin Hague, Chief Executive of Forest & Bird. The key factors behind the decline in scallops are threefold. Overallocation. We are harvesting too many scallops. Ongoing use of scallop dredges. This destructive fishing technique smashes anything it doesn’t catch and destroys the seafloor making it inhabitable for scallop spat (juvenile scallops) to settle. As seen in areas such as the Marlborough Sounds, land based pollution or runoff also plays a part. Yachting New Zealand CEO, David Abercrombie said: “It is mana whenua who are showing the way. Without iwi and hapū such as Ngāti Hei, Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngā Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Rehua, and Ngāti Manuhiri having the courage to boldly lay rāhui around the Hauraki Gulf there would be little meaningful protection.”   Sam Woolford from LegaSea and Nicola MacDonald from Ngāti Manuhiri talking with John Campbell on TVNZ’s Breakfast show this week.