Plaudits for rahui extension

By Peter de Graaf

A marine conservation group is applauding a decision to extend a rahui on fishing in the Bay of Islands' Maunganui Bay for another two years.

The rahui, which bans the taking of any seafood except kina, will now remain in force at least until December 1, 2014.

Concerned about dwindling fish stocks, local hapu Ngati Kuta and Patukeha originally declared a rahui over the area in 2009. It was generally respected but lacked legal teeth.

The bay is also known as Deepwater Cove, where the former navy frigate Canterbury was sunk in 2007. It is near the tip of Cape Brett peninsula which forms the eastern boundary of the Bay of Islands.

The then Ministry of Fisheries imposed a two-year rahui in December 2010, which was extended by the Ministry of Primary Industries for at least two more years after both hapu successfully petitioned the government.

Bay of Islands marine conservation group Fish Forever said it was delighted by the ministry's decision.

Campaign manager Catherine Langford said the rahui had only just started to achieve what was intended.

"Restoration of a healthy undersea is not something that happens overnight. It takes years after harvesting stops for the plants and animals to return to their original size and abundance. And once they do, everyone benefits."

This year's survey of the marine life in Maunganui Bay, including around the Canterbury, showed marine life had a long way to go before it could be considered to have reached its "climax state".

Marine scientist John Booth, of Fish Forever, said the wreck's surfaces were now home to many sponges and tubeworms, rather than just the filamentous algae of previous years.

Eventually, the ship would be almost completely covered by filter feeders, but that was still some time away, with the fish responding more sluggishly to protection, he said.

"With no fishing you expect the abundance and average size of fish to increase. But the largest snapper seen in the survey this year are still not even the average size for snapper in the Leigh Marine Reserve. The only way for the fish in the bay to return to their natural state is if there is absolutely no fishing," Mr Booth said.

- Northern Advocate

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