Key Points:

A popular cockle-gathering beach near Maraetai may be closed for two years following a request from local iwi concerned at the overtake.

Monitoring has shown a decrease in the cockle population from 96 million in 2000 to 12 million in 2006 at Umupuia Beach, also known as Duders Beach, on the east coast south of Auckland.

The Ministry of Fisheries is now asking for public submissions on a proposed temporary closure of the beach.

Spatial allocations manager Randall Bess said the Ngai Tai Umupuia Te Waka Totara Trust had asked on behalf of Umupuia Marae and the Ngai Tai iwi for the beach to be closed to cockle harvesters for two years.

Mr Bess said such a move would apply to all parties, including local Maori.

Before determining a closure the minister had to consult representatives of people interested in the species or the area concerned.

Mr Bess said the ministry was undertaking a consultation process on the Umupuia request by inviting written submissions until July 18.

Concerns had also arisen at Cockle Bay, near Howick, where ministry compliance action over the summer had revealed intense fishing pressure on shellfish resources.

"Alarming levels of non-compliance were observed, and the ministry is concerned that the resources cannot sustain the observed levels of harvesting."

Mr Bess said the local community had also raised concerns and proposed options for addressing them.

He said the ministry would soon consult local stakeholders and the community on proposed changes to the shellfish management measures to ensure sustainable use of shellfish resources at Cockle Bay.

"Should the minister agree to any new management measures, they could be in effect for the coming summer period."

Inspections by honorary fishery officers found many people ignored the daily limit of 50 cockles a day, discarding piles and bags of the shellfish on the beach and in rubbish tins.