Trawlers operating close to the Kāpiti Marine Reserve and a proposed skyrocketing snapper quota increase are the two topics at an important upcoming public meeting.
The Guardians of Kāpiti Marine Reserve Trust will host the meeting to discuss "community concerns regarding an increasing number of incidents of trawlers fishing close to the marine reserve and the proposed 133 per cent or 1600 tonne increase in the total allowable commercial catch of snapper within the Snapper 8 management area which includes Kāpiti", Guardians chairman Ben Knight said.
The meeting will be held on Sunday, August 22 from 1pm to 4pm at the Paraparaumu Library and is an opportunity for members of the local community to share their concerns and discuss possible options to restrict this type of fishing method within the nationally significant wider Kāpiti marine area.
"Over the past four to five years we have received an increasing number of reports from concerned members of the public regarding trawlers fishing close to Kapiti Marine Reserve.
"With the current Ministry for Primary Industries proposal to increase the commercial snapper catch limit for the Snapper 8 management area (of which Kāpiti is a part) by up to 1600 tonnes, it's likely we will be seeing a lot more commercial trawlers fishing within the wider Kāpiti marine area.
"Personally I think the proposed increase to the commercial snapper catch limit is a terrible idea.
"We've seen a significant improvement in snapper numbers in recent years, providing our local community with a fantastic recreational and customary resource with fishers reporting the past four to five years of snapper fishing being as good as they can recall.
"While it's not quite back to what it would have been pre-industrialised commercial fishing, the local snapper population is significantly more abundant and therefore providing a much more efficient local fishery than we have seen on the coast since the 1970s when the stocks were virtually wiped out.
"Not to mention the important ecosystem services these keystone predators can play for example in controlling kina numbers that appear to be spiralling out of control on the reefs around Kāpiti."
Knight said trawling was "an indiscriminate and destructive fishing method that damages the fragile biogenic marine ecosystems that live on the seafloor".
"These ecosystems are biodiverse and valuable in their own right. Importantly they also provide habitat, shelter and food for aggregations of juvenile fish such as blue cod and are therefore a vital component of the wider marine ecosystem and fisheries.
"The Kāpiti marine area is home to a rich and unique array of such high value seabed habitats including the largest known rhodolith beds in the country and previously undocumented anemone beds.
"Trawling poses a significant and unacceptable threat to these ecosystems.
"The Guardians trust will work with other interested members of the community, marine users, local iwi and central and local government agencies to ensure the biodiversity, recreational and cultural values associated with Kāpiti Marine Reserve and the surrounding marine area are protected.
"Options include establishing a recreational marine park under a special piece of legislation, controls within the Greater Wellington Regional council's coastal management plans (now part of the natural resources plan), customary closures/restrictions (Rahui, Taiapure, Mataitai) under section 186 of the fisheries act and other options including renegotiating the original voluntary no-trawl agreement."
Fisheries New Zealand's director of fisheries management Emma Taylor said the snapper fishery on the west coast of the North Island (Snapper 8) had shown positive changes following cuts made to the catch limits in 2005.
The latest scientific assessment found that the abundance of snapper has increased and the fishery has recovered from historical lows.
"With more fish in the water, we're proposing changes to the catch settings to make sure they're set appropriately while maintaining the sustainability of this important shared fishery."
The snapper increase is part of Fisheries New Zealand's proposed changes to catch limits and other settings across a range of fisheries for the new fishing year beginning October 1.
Public consultation is open with Fisheries keen to hear people's views.