Ban sought on cockle harvesting

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross presents the petition from Cockle Bay residents to Minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy. Photo supplied

Taking of shellfish at Cockle Bay could be banned for several years to allow the fishery to recover.

Such a move is under consideration now and will be dependent upon a scientific survey.
Although recreational cockle gathering is stopped each year, concerned residents have pushed hard to end shellfish harvesting for a longer period.

The Cockle Bay community has filed a petition with Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross. Residents believe the beach should be closed for cockle gathering for at least several years.

The beach was to re-open for harvesting on April 30. A scientific survey of the cockle population will enable the Minister for Primary Industries (MPI), Nathan Guy, to make decisions about the longer term.

“Cockle Bay is suffering from too many people collecting cockles,” Mr Ross said.

Cockle Bay is now closed for harvesting and it is unlawful for anyone to take cockles from the beach.

“There is strong concern from locals, and myself, that the beach is at risk of losing its entire cockle population due to intensive activity,” he said.

“There is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that people have been exceeding the 50 cockles per person limit.”

On July 25, he presented the Minister with a petition from the Cockle Bay community requesting the beach be closed for harvesting.

“I also specifically asked the Minister for a survey of the cockle population to be done so that we can all make some decisions about the future of the beach based on evidence,” he said.

There is a survey planned this summer to be carried out by MPI.

“Cockle Bay is a beautiful place that our community loves. Protecting the future of the beach is very important. I realise collecting shellfish is part of our Kiwi way of life, but it has to be done sustainably.”

Protecting Cockle Bay for future generations must be the priority, he said.

“Local residents have quite rightly suggested that the beach should not reopen until the cockle population is restored. Over-fishing that is not sustainable damages this natural resource.

“I’m very pleased the beach is now closed. I will keep working with the Minister once we get the data back to ensure a sustainable long-term plan is put in place for the beach.

He said a lot of credit also needs to be given to honorary fishery officers like resident Barry Wood who “diligently do what they can to protect the beach from illegal harvesting”.