Jason Ruawai: Kaikoura shellfish and seaweed ban must be kept

[New Zealand] Right now the Ministry for Primary Industries is contemplating extending the shellfish and seaweed harvest ban that runs along the east coast.

Our message is simple. Do it.

The closed area runs from the Conway River to Marfells beach and we are asking MPI to keep this section of the coast under the ban through to November 20.

This is our first priority and every paua diver in Kaikoura is on-board.

The reason this has to be done is simple; we don’t know enough about the long-term implications the quake is going to have on the paua fishery.

We don’t know how much suitable juvenile habitat remains. We don’t know how many adult paua remain.

We don’t know what the size of the fishery will be in the future.

Only time and the appropriate science can give us those answers, and so it is time we are asking for.

Because if we make the wrong management decision right now, it could take a lifetime for the fishery to recover or it may not at all.

Shutting down the fishery will have major implications on the commercial divers, and all will suffer financially, however leaving it open could be much worse.

It’s about short-term pain for long-term gain.

I work as an electrician as well and so whilst the ban is hard on me and my family, there are others out there who are doing it tougher.

Dave Rae, a mate and paua diver of 30 years, doesn’t have another job. He is a paua diver through and through.

In the months leading up to the November earthquake Dave had been buying more quota so he could go out and catch more paua.

Quota is not cheap and this has meant a massive financial burden for him and his family.

But if you asked Dave whether he is willing to take the short-term hit, you would get a simple answer: Without a doubt, yes.

Tell me how many people are willing to take such a financial hit for the sustainability of a shared resource? Not a lot I would think.

Dave, like me, is thankful for the $500 a week business subsidy from the Government, but wonders how he’ll keep paying the bills long-term.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, we can still go catch paua, just not in the 50 per cent that will be closed off.

But because half the fishery will (hopefully) be closed, all the divers in the Canterbury region have chosen to halve their annual catch.

No pushing from Government, just a conscious decision to do what is best to protect our livelihoods, and the fishery, past November.

None of this is worth a dime if the community doesn’t buy into it with us. So we’re asking for your understanding.

No paua from the area for nine months or perhaps longer.

A bit of short-term pain for the long-term gain.


Photo: Jason Ruawai is chairman of PauaMAC3, the representative body for professional paua divers in Canterbury.

View original article at: Kaikoura shellfish and seaweed ban must be kept

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