Whatever it is that some people claim to have heard working waters off the Karikari Peninsula, it wasn't scallop boats according to a former scallop fisherman and current quota holder.

A local man told a public meeting last week that scallop boats working Karikari Bay from 3am onwards sounded like motor mowers, up to three boats working back and forth from Puwheke out to the islands (Locals take on longliners, October 16).

"They travel in overlapping passes, so no part of the ocean floor is undisturbed," he said.
Another resident said he heard scallop boats working from 6am, but Whangarei man Hilton Leith said they were mistaken.

The last time commercial scallop fishermen had worked in Rangaunu Bay was the 2010 season, he said. He could not say when Doubtless Bay had last been commercially dredged, "but from memory it was some time in the '90s, so likely more than 20 years ago."


Mr Leith said he had contacted a verification supervisor with the Ministry for Primary Industries, who had confirmed that no biotoxin testing had been undertaken in the Far North this scallop season. There had been commercial scallop fishing at Bream Bay and Mangawhai, where the appropriate biotoxin testing had been carried out.

"Also, to protect the scallop beds, we only allow scallop fishing to take place between 6am and 6pm. There is no scallop fishing at 3am in the morning, so I am fascinated to know what boats were the 'motor mowers' at 3am," he added.

He also noted that fishermen who held annual catch entitlement for Scallop Area 1 (SCA1) could legitimately fish in Rangaunu Bay once they had completed the necessary biotoxin testing.

"After eight years with no fishing in Rangaunu Bay, this might be the year that fishermen return," he said.

"SCA1 runs from Mangawhai up the east coast around the top of the North Island to 90 Mile Beach, although 90 Mile Beach has never been commercially fished."