In 2013, the development of a Marine Spatial Plan for the Hauraki Gulf was initiated by the Hauraki Gulf Forum in response to the findings in their tri-annual “State of the Gulf” reports. Each of these reports was showing a serious decline in all the key indicators being monitored, such as fish stocks, water quality and biodiversity. It was clear that the health of the Hauraki Gulf was in trouble. Dirk Sieling, in his letter to The Informer, 7 November, drew attention to the bottom trawling corridors in the Hauraki Gulf being proposed by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). The deadline for submissions to this proposal has now passed but the ministry will accept late submissions until Monday 4 December.
There’s a little time for people to act.
Along with Dirk, I was a member of the Stake Holder Working Group (SWG), a group of fourteen people who were tasked with developing a Marine Spatial Plan. We represented wide cultural, environmental, commercial and social interests across the Hauraki Gulf. The group included both commercial and recreational fishing industries. In December 2016, the “Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari -the Marine Spatial Plan for the Hauraki Gulf” was delivered to the authorities.
All the recommendations made by Sea Change were based on the best information available from here and overseas, were robustly considered and were agreed to by all members of the group. One of the key recommendations was to address the urgent need to ban all bottom-contact fishing methods of trawling, dredging and Danish seining out of the Gulf by 2025. Preventing further destruction of the sea floor and the associated plumes of smothering sediment resulting from these practices is essential to the Gulf’s recovery.
Leadership from MPI could, and should, have been providing leadership to the industry and guidance on moving to practices that are far more selective and much less destructive to the environment. Not so.
Now, some seven years after Sea Change was released, the response from MPI is this astonishing and dismaying proposal to create “trawl corridors” throughout the Gulf. These are not narrow “corridors”. There are four options proposed and each one includes coverage of large areas of the Hauraki Gulf. Instead of working to promote a healthy and productive ecosystem the ministry is, in effect, opting for the status quo. What is being proposed by any of the options will not change anything. A fifth option has been suggested by LegaSea to oppose all bottom trawling in the Marine Park and this should be supported. The destruction of the sea floor and everything that should live there will continue if these “corridors” are permitted. This must not happen.
The Hauraki Gulf needs all of us to care for, protect and share our big, blue back yard now and for our future.
Information about this proposal is on the MPI website – www.mpi.govt.nz. Please take a few minutes to send a submission to email@example.com.