Plea for fishing ban to remain near Rena

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The Rena after it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in October 2011. PHOTO/FILE
The Rena after it ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in October 2011. PHOTO/FILE

Tomorrow Bay of Plenty Regional Council will make a decision whether to allow the Rena wreck to remain on the Astrolabe Reef.

Whether the Rena stays on the reef or not, Forest and Bird and tangatawhenua have asked the government to leave the area around the wreck excluded from fishing.

Forest and Bird and Nga Hapu o Motiti want fishing to be banned for at least another two years to allow marine biodiversity to continue its recovery.

An application for a two year temporary closure of Te Tau o Taiti/Astrolabe Reef has been lodged on behalf of Nga Hapu o Motiti, who identify with, and have kaitiakitanga over Motiti Island and surrounding waters.

The area sought for rahui - temporary closure - covers three nautical miles around a point on Astrolabe Reef, and covers an area of approximately 97sqkm.

Forest and Bird chief executive Hone McGregor supported the temporary closure, also known as rahui, on the grounds that a continued exclusion zone would maintain the improvement in the marine biodiversity, and that these benefits were not lost.

Mr McGregor believed the recovery of biodiversity of Te Tau o Taiti over the last four years should not be lost "prior to a community discussion on the future protection of the marine environments at both Te Tau o Taiti and Motiti Island, and the creation of a temporary closure would create the opportunity for this discussion to take place."

Te Atarangi Sayers, Nga Hapu o Motiti, with a BSc Dip marine science, has urged the community to support its application.

"It would be heart breaking to see the wreck left in place, but it would be far worse to stop marine recovery by allowing the premature resumption of fishing. Even before the Rena went aground, Tangatawhenua had noticed the depletion of fish stocks from the area.

"Combining an already declining fish stock with significant pollution from oil, cargo, debris and other contaminants has put an already threatened species under even more stress," Mr Sayers said.

He said marine life was only just starting to recover and implored the community to support tangatawhenua in its bid to recognise and give effect to a rahui on the area and allow species and marine life to continue to heal.

"The decision whether to endorse our rahui rests with the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy. We ask our community to make a submission in support of the temporary closure. We ask Nathan Guy to recognise our rahui with urgency."

Submissions on Nga Hapu o Motiti's application for temporary closure under the NZ Fisheries Act close on the 14th March 2016 after which time Minister Nathan Guy will make a decision.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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