A planned pilot programme involving blackfoot paua in the
Catlins could lead to an eventual change in the scientific
survey approach for the country's entire paua fishery.
Paua is a summer delicacy, and paua fritters are usually made
from blackfoot paua. The blackfoot paua (Haliotis iris)
species is endemic to New Zealand and is found throughout the
country, most abundantly on shallow reefs.
''Haliotis'' means sea ear and ''iris'' refers to the
beautiful rainbow colour.
Paua belong to a group of primitive gastropod molluscs known
as abalone, of which there are 55 species throughout the
Three species are found in this country, including the
yellowfoot and whitefoot paua, but the blackfoot commercial
fishery is by far the most significant.
Niwa scientist Reyn Naylor, of Wellington, said scientific
surveys of the country's blackfoot paua population over the
past 20 years had been conducted by divers making a count
while swimming for 10 minutes within a survey grid area at
The new pilot programme, due to start in mid-February and
focused mainly in South Otago, involves a different approach,
which has long been undertaken overseas.
Seventy-two sites will be randomly selected and at each a
tape will be run out to mark a ''transect line''
perpendicular to the shore. All paua 1m either side of the
tape will be counted. The line will run from the shore until
it reaches the reef, or the water is 10m deep. Three divers
will be involved, and some survey sites could extend as far
north as Taieri Mouth.
Diving work could well extend into March, if there were any
Mr Naylor said this approach could result in ''more robust''
data being generated about paua numbers and, if successful,
could result in a change in overall paua survey approaches.
The research is being funded by the Ministry for Primary
Industries, which will use the resulting information to
review catch allocations under the Quota Management System.
Blackfoot paua can grow up to 200mm in shell length. The
daily paua harvesting quota is 10 per person and the minimum
size limit is 125mm.