Editorial: Mad folly in kaimoana free for all

By Mark Story

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A month back I received a call from a Central Hawke's Bay coastal resident incensed at what was playing out in front of him at Pourerere Beach.

His fears were corroborated by others, as emails began trickling in.

Their beef was with fishing trawlers allegedly encroaching on recreational waters too close to shore.

Commercial fishing has always copped flak for pillaging the seas. Luckless recreational fisherman, like me, would like to think that's why my fish smoker is redundant. I'm not a bad fisherman - there's simply no fish.

But if these commercial trawlers occasionally clip too much of the ticket, they're certainly not the only offenders.

Two Hawke's Bay men are facing charges after fisheries officers seized more than 300 mainly undersize paua at Blackhead Beach on Sunday.

It was the second significant "catch" by the ministry in recent times. Another two men were charged 10 days earlier after pilfering others' pots off Cape Kidnappers and collecting 277 crayfish.

That's quite a feed. And quite a price. An average-sized crayfish retails for about $30. Their efforts amounted to a $8310 kaimoana banquet.

Paua, of course, is much cheaper.

And legally speaking, a fisherman can take a maximum of 10 paua per day.

The reality is, I imagine only a small population of New Zealand collects paua. But again, if we can all grab 10 paua, per person, per day, there must be massive stocks available.

In fact, as of yesterday at 3.07pm, Statistics New Zealand told me this country's population stood at 4,441,587. That means legally, if we were inclined, the country could collectively take 44,415,870 paua from the ocean this afternoon. And the same tomorrow.

No doubt last Sunday New Zealand's paua breathed a collective sigh of relief when only 300 paua were pulled from the sea. That's a meagre 0.000675 per cent of what we were able to take, had we been greedy. Obviously we're an all-giving species.

Of the legal potential death toll, a whopping 44,415,570 paua survived the incident.

I'm being deliberately facetious - because I sadly suspect that this is the very mindset these marine rustlers adopt when raping the resource.

It's a crime of misplaced entitlement - a hunter-gatherer's sense of accomplishment (hard toil - free tucker, the yield essentially immaterial if you've harvested the food yourself).

Such limitless hunger is an appetite for destruction.

While I'm an active fan of the outdoor supermarket, particularly the marine one, this attitude has to change.

Paua and crayfish are respectively too rubbery and prickly to front as poster boys for marine conservation. Somehow we need to muster the same ardent stance we've formed against those who harpoon whales for a living.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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