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The case against bottom trawling Part 2 – Interview conducted by Pauline Stewart

Fisheries New Zealand is still consulting on options for establishing bottom fishing access zones (trawl corridors) in the Hauraki Gulf. It is one of the key actions in the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan. The proposals seek to protect sea floor habitats by excluding bottom trawling and Danish seining from the Hauraki Gulf, except within defined areas. It is these defined area of trawl corridors they are proposing that Legasea, environmentalists and some recreational fishers are preparing submissions against.

Submission deadlines: The deadline for putting in submissions has been extended from 5.00pm, 6 November to 5.00pm, 4 December, just a few days away. This is the method of public consultation that we have to assist the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to be provided with sufficient advice and information to make the final decisions on bottom trawling and Danish seining in the Hauraki Gulf.

A regulatory process will then be required to bring the finalised trawl corridors into effect.

Last week it was thought that the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries could be Scott Simpson, our local MP, but instead it is Shane Jones. Shane is also Minister for Regional Development and Resources.

In the last two issues of The Informer, there have been strong arguments presented against any bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf. The plea is for it to stop – discontinue it in what is a vulnerable and outstandingly beautiful expansion of ocean and coastline. On the opposite page, an argument and explanation around maintaining corridors for bottom trawling is presented by someone who has been engaged in Commercial Fishing for a very long time and is also a recreational fishermen, diver and wo cared deeply for the environment.

Sam Woolford, the Programme Lead for Legasea last week gave important input as part of an interview with The Informer, along with Dirk Sieling, local environmentalist and Joe Davis, Kaumatua of Ngati Hei. All argued strongly that the displacement of corridors will increase pressure on the Gulf and that fact hasn’t been emphasised enough. They have support for this view. “People think a Marine Park solves all of our problems,” says Sam. “It does not. If you are bottom trawling in a corridor just outside the Marine Park boundary, then that will detrimentally affect the sea life in the Marine Park. The Coromandel is about to get hammered by this aspect.”

Sam explained that the current high protection areas are very close to some of the islands, but that is not where the commercial fishing takes place. He is sure that localised management is needed with extended high protection areas. “We need more not less,” says Sam.

Both sides of the argument are concerned about the reports of fish that have mushy flesh. There is research being done as to the causes, but this is not complete at this time.

This is what is available on this subject: –

Reports of fish with milky white flesh

In 2022, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) received reports of some snapper and trevally being caught that had flesh that looked “milky white” or “mushy”. This is being referred to as “milky white flesh syndrome”. While the syndrome has been seen and reported in previous years, it appears to be more common this season (2022-23). We know the syndrome has been affecting snapper in the Hauraki Gulf and East Northland areas. There have also been some reports of the syndrome appearing in other finfish species, such as trevally.

Tests found no biosecurity or food safety concerns.

Testing of snapper with this syndrome has found no reason for any biosecurity or food safety concerns. The main finding from the affected fish was evidence of nutritional deficiencies. This can happen after fish spawn.

New Zealand Fisheries science and information director Simon Lawrence said testing by Biosecurity NZ found no evidence of exotic disease or parasites and no evidence of a food safety risk. “However, the fish were found to have nutritional deficiencies. There has been some public speculation that this means food sources for snapper have not been available,” Lawrence said. “This is a complex matter … and affected fish samples have been found with food in their stomachs.”

Fisheries NZ has commissioned Niwa to research the prevalence of milky white flesh syndrome and look into potential correlation with environmental factors. The results from this research are expected in mid-2024, Lawrence said.

Sam Woolford believes that the research at this time seems to point to chronic starvation. I look forward to the results of the joint commitment to research. “It is spawning season for snapper right now. If fish are starving, can they reproduce? We don’t have 12 months. We need to do something now. Commercial fishermen in Mercury Bay Area are concerned with 20 percent of some species of fish caught not being saleable due to mushy flesh. They can’t sell their quota limits – the fish are not good enough quality to sell. The quota limits are almost too high.

To argue against continuing to fish in the way that it occurs commercially is not an anti-commercial fishing campaign. We are asking for commercial fishing that is much more selective; with selective techniques.

The interviewed team added that for example, the mismanagement of the scallop industry has led to almost no scallop industry.

The crown could purchase what is left of the scallop industry. Scallops should be gathered by hand. The price needs to be a premium. It was too good for too long and to build it up again sustainably will take a long time. Scallops are candy to the sea floor creatures.

They did not see significant negative environment impact from mussel farming – from shellfish aquaculture. Their concern was Finfish farming. “These fish eat a lot and they ‘shit’ a lot. The amount of Nitrogen output is a big problem. It requires nine pounds of food to make one pound of salmon,” added Sam.

In that interview, there was considerable mention of a lack of inshore management tools and insufficient local input into policies for local marine life protection and sustainability.

The three spoke of no inshore management tools and not enough recognition that local communities bear most of the environmental impacts of the fishing industry but yet revenues from licences and permits go directly to the central Government.

What no party argues against is the very real responsibility to provide fish and sea food for those who do not have access to the ocean. What is also clear to all is that the ocean is also a wonderful resource for income – fish, tourism; a friend of economic well-being; but the means to make it sustainable and respectful of nature have yet to be agreed. Research is crucial; greed will need to have more regulation and the interconnected reliance among the sea creatures of the Hauraki Gulf to survive and thrive can’t be ignored.

TO HAVE YOUR SAY:

• Go to website: mpi.govt.nz.

• Under ‘Have Your Say’ – click on “Proposed options for Bottom Fishing Access Zones in the

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park”

• Th ere are four options to consider under Point 6 on Contents page

• There are three key questions for submitters of both points of view that are clear and give you

opportunity to state your case without writing a book.

• Th e background information to the issues is there with explanations of methods of commercial

fishing. Not too much to read. Your submission can simply be answering these three questions.

 |  The Informer  | 

Fisheries New Zealand is still consulting on options for establishing bottom fishing access zones (trawl corridors) in the Hauraki Gulf. It is one of the key actions in the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan. The proposals seek to protect sea floor habitats by excluding bottom trawling and Danish seining from the Hauraki Gulf, except within defined areas. It is these defined area of trawl corridors they are proposing that Legasea, environmentalists and some recreational fishers are preparing submissions against.

Submission deadlines: The deadline for putting in submissions has been extended from 5.00pm, 6 November to 5.00pm, 4 December, just a few days away. This is the method of public consultation that we have to assist the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries to be provided with sufficient advice and information to make the final decisions on bottom trawling and Danish seining in the Hauraki Gulf.

A regulatory process will then be required to bring the finalised trawl corridors into effect.

Last week it was thought that the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries could be Scott Simpson, our local MP, but instead it is Shane Jones. Shane is also Minister for Regional Development and Resources.

In the last two issues of The Informer, there have been strong arguments presented against any bottom trawling in the Hauraki Gulf. The plea is for it to stop – discontinue it in what is a vulnerable and outstandingly beautiful expansion of ocean and coastline. On the opposite page, an argument and explanation around maintaining corridors for bottom trawling is presented by someone who has been engaged in Commercial Fishing for a very long time and is also a recreational fishermen, diver and wo cared deeply for the environment.

Sam Woolford, the Programme Lead for Legasea last week gave important input as part of an interview with The Informer, along with Dirk Sieling, local environmentalist and Joe Davis, Kaumatua of Ngati Hei. All argued strongly that the displacement of corridors will increase pressure on the Gulf and that fact hasn’t been emphasised enough. They have support for this view. “People think a Marine Park solves all of our problems,” says Sam. “It does not. If you are bottom trawling in a corridor just outside the Marine Park boundary, then that will detrimentally affect the sea life in the Marine Park. The Coromandel is about to get hammered by this aspect.”

Sam explained that the current high protection areas are very close to some of the islands, but that is not where the commercial fishing takes place. He is sure that localised management is needed with extended high protection areas. “We need more not less,” says Sam.

Both sides of the argument are concerned about the reports of fish that have mushy flesh. There is research being done as to the causes, but this is not complete at this time.

This is what is available on this subject: –

Reports of fish with milky white flesh

In 2022, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) received reports of some snapper and trevally being caught that had flesh that looked “milky white” or “mushy”. This is being referred to as “milky white flesh syndrome”. While the syndrome has been seen and reported in previous years, it appears to be more common this season (2022-23). We know the syndrome has been affecting snapper in the Hauraki Gulf and East Northland areas. There have also been some reports of the syndrome appearing in other finfish species, such as trevally.

Tests found no biosecurity or food safety concerns.

Testing of snapper with this syndrome has found no reason for any biosecurity or food safety concerns. The main finding from the affected fish was evidence of nutritional deficiencies. This can happen after fish spawn.

New Zealand Fisheries science and information director Simon Lawrence said testing by Biosecurity NZ found no evidence of exotic disease or parasites and no evidence of a food safety risk. “However, the fish were found to have nutritional deficiencies. There has been some public speculation that this means food sources for snapper have not been available,” Lawrence said. “This is a complex matter … and affected fish samples have been found with food in their stomachs.”

Fisheries NZ has commissioned Niwa to research the prevalence of milky white flesh syndrome and look into potential correlation with environmental factors. The results from this research are expected in mid-2024, Lawrence said.

Sam Woolford believes that the research at this time seems to point to chronic starvation. I look forward to the results of the joint commitment to research. “It is spawning season for snapper right now. If fish are starving, can they reproduce? We don’t have 12 months. We need to do something now. Commercial fishermen in Mercury Bay Area are concerned with 20 percent of some species of fish caught not being saleable due to mushy flesh. They can’t sell their quota limits – the fish are not good enough quality to sell. The quota limits are almost too high.

To argue against continuing to fish in the way that it occurs commercially is not an anti-commercial fishing campaign. We are asking for commercial fishing that is much more selective; with selective techniques.

The interviewed team added that for example, the mismanagement of the scallop industry has led to almost no scallop industry.

The crown could purchase what is left of the scallop industry. Scallops should be gathered by hand. The price needs to be a premium. It was too good for too long and to build it up again sustainably will take a long time. Scallops are candy to the sea floor creatures.

They did not see significant negative environment impact from mussel farming – from shellfish aquaculture. Their concern was Finfish farming. “These fish eat a lot and they ‘shit’ a lot. The amount of Nitrogen output is a big problem. It requires nine pounds of food to make one pound of salmon,” added Sam.

In that interview, there was considerable mention of a lack of inshore management tools and insufficient local input into policies for local marine life protection and sustainability.

The three spoke of no inshore management tools and not enough recognition that local communities bear most of the environmental impacts of the fishing industry but yet revenues from licences and permits go directly to the central Government.

What no party argues against is the very real responsibility to provide fish and sea food for those who do not have access to the ocean. What is also clear to all is that the ocean is also a wonderful resource for income – fish, tourism; a friend of economic well-being; but the means to make it sustainable and respectful of nature have yet to be agreed. Research is crucial; greed will need to have more regulation and the interconnected reliance among the sea creatures of the Hauraki Gulf to survive and thrive can’t be ignored.

TO HAVE YOUR SAY:

• Go to website: mpi.govt.nz.

• Under ‘Have Your Say’ – click on “Proposed options for Bottom Fishing Access Zones in the

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park”

• Th ere are four options to consider under Point 6 on Contents page

• There are three key questions for submitters of both points of view that are clear and give you

opportunity to state your case without writing a book.

• Th e background information to the issues is there with explanations of methods of commercial

fishing. Not too much to read. Your submission can simply be answering these three questions.