Ban placed on shellfish gathering

A year-round ban will be placed on the harvesting of shellfish at Cockle Bay Beach from May 1 this year. Times photo Wayne Martin

A year-round ban is being placed on the harvesting of shellfish at an east Auckland beach.

The measure comes into effect at Cockle Bay Beach on May 1 this year.

The Ministry for Primary Industries publicly announced on March 26 that Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker has decided to implement the closure, to be reviewed after three years.

It replaces the current seasonal ban, which was implemented in 2008 and allows people to harvest up to 50 cockles per day between May 1 and September 30, but places no limit on how many people can collect there each day.

Fisheries NZ called earlier this year for public submissions on two options it was considering to restore the beach’s shellfish population.

The first option was to make no changes, while the second was to revoke the existing seasonal closure and replace it with a full, year-round ban.

The Howick Local Board recently passed a resolution stating it supports replacing the seasonal closure with a year-round ban.

Board chairwoman Adele White says she’s pleased that is being implemented.

“This was fully supported by our board.

“It’s disappointing that constant poaching has threatened the sustainability of the shellfish beds.”

Local resident Barry Wood also supports a full year-round ban.

“It has taken years of work by a large number of people to convince Fisheries NZ to take action to close the beach to all shellfish collecting,” he says.

“The shellfish numbers have been in decline for years due to the very large numbers gathering over the open season.

“I would like to thank all the people who helped to achieve this closure.”
Cockle Bay Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Laurie Slee says the group is “delighted” with the move.

“The association sees this as an essential step to try to halt the dramatic decline in cockle numbers at the beach,” he told the Times.

“It hopes the action will grant at least a short-term reprieve from overharvesting.”

Fisheries NZ fisheries management director Emma Taylor says the best scientific information is used to determine if changes are required to “ensure our fisheries remain sustainable”.

“Where there is information to suggest a sustainability concern, management measures are brought into effect.

“The most recent survey of the beach … has shown a decline in the number of large cockles, signalling there’s a potential sustainability risk to the cockle population.

“This information, along with feedback from the public, has shaped our advice to the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries on his decision to implement a full year-round closure at Cockle Bay.”

Taylor says signs at the beach advising the public of the seasonal closure will be updated to reflect the new year-round restriction.

“Fishery officers regularly patrol the Cockle Bay area and will be supporting the introduction of the year-round closure through monitoring, education, and where appropriate, enforcement.

“We encourage people to contact us if they see any suspicious fishing activity on the 0800 47 62 24 hotline.”