Restoring Coromandel scallopsSince October 2020 LegaSea has been working with the Coromandel community to address their concerns about the depletion of scallops, particularly in Opito Bay on the eastern side of the Peninsula. Opito Bay has always been a popular place to gather scallops due to its shallow, clear waters.
Years of unconstrained commercial harvest and destructive dredging has decimated the scallops, crabs and other sea life that inhabit the seafloor. Locals want to restore scallops to abundant levels and sustain the beds for future generations. Previous attempts by the Opito Bay Ratepayers Association to engage with Fisheries New Zealand officials about ongoing depletion have been unsuccessful. So, the locals are taking the bold step of initiating community-led action. A Coromandel Scallop Restoration and Sustainability Plan has been drafted, a scallop survey has been designed and actioned. Several meetings have been held with mana whenua Ngāti Hei, Opito Bay and Kūaotunu ratepayers, New Zealand Underwater Association, New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, Tairua-Pauanui Sports Fishing Club, Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club, Matarangi Boat & Fishing Club, Whangamata Ocean Sports Club and LegaSea. A steerage committee of representatives from some of these organisations has been overseeing implementation of the project.
Campaign launchThe scallop survey was officially launched by Ngāti Hei and the community at a ceremony at Opito Bay on 17 December 2020. Ngāti Hei rangatira Joe Davis announced a rāhui on scallops and the community is supporting a voluntary ban on all take of scallops until a more formal customary management tool can be established to prevent harvesting. With non-commercial harvest constrained, talks have been initiated with commercial interests; no formal response has been received yet. Dive Zone Whitianga has generously donated time and resources to conduct the scallop survey using teams of divers. The Opito Bay Ratepayers Association, New Zealand Sport Fishing Council and local clubs, and LegaSea have provided logistical and financial support for the research. The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council expects to receive the survey results in April 2021. LegaSea acknowledges that mismanagement of scallops is not unique to Coromandel. “While the Quota Management System is failing Kiwis, it’s motivating to see the local community rallying together and taking control to ensure their scallop beds are not wiped out like we have already seen in the Marlborough Sounds, Tasman and Golden Bays at the top of the South Island, and in the Kaipara Harbour,” says LegaSea Project Lead Sam Woolford.
Timeline of process
- 23 March – s186a closure request put out for public consultation. The two year closure includes no harvesting of scallops by anyone in Ngāti Hei rohe. Submissions can be made here.
- 22 March – LegaSea & Ngāti Hei speak at the Hauraki Gulf Forum about the Opito Bay scallop programme.
- 10 Feb – s186a closure submitted to MPI by iwi Ngāti Hei
- 29 Jan – 2nd letter sent to David Parker, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries.
- 29 Jan – Public urged to support voluntary scallop ban. News item.
- 26 Jan – No diving or dredging for Coromandel scallops. Article.
- 18 Dec – Radio New Zealand interview with Ngāti Hei rangatira, Joe Davis: Locals take action.
- 17 Dec – Issue media release by combined groups: Media here.
- 17 Dec – Launch rāhui and voluntary scallop harvesting ban at Opito Bay ceremony.
- 14 Dec – Diver training, Dive Zone Whitianga.
- 9 Dec – LegaSea article published online: Opito Bay scallop depletion not acceptable.
- 4 Dec – LegaSea email to database.
- 2 Dec – LegaSea article published online: Scallops are delicious.
- 2 Dec – Letter sent to David Parker, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries: Read here.
- Nov – Dec – Steerage committee meetings.
- October – Design scallop survey.
- October – Draft Coromandel Scallop Restoration and Sustainability Plan.
- October – Introductory meeting with Opito Bay interests.
- Plenary. Current status of Coromandel Scallops. Fisheries NZ report. November 2019. Read here.
- Coromandel scallop abundance report. Fisheries NZ Assessment report. June 2012. Read here.
- Launch article in local Whitianga paper, The Informer. Read here.
- s186A closure media release in Stuff. Read here.