Collecting paua could be banned temporarily

The Government is considering a paua-fishing ban on a stretch of beaches north of Dunedin to halt the decline of the abalone.

However, an industry head says the consultation document lacks information and ways to stop knock-on effects.

Fisheries New Zealand is consulting on changes from south of Blueskin Bay to north of Karitane, including halting recreational and commercial paua fishing and the prohibition of the harvesting of seven kelp species, set-netting and filleting fish at sea.

The ban on taking recreational paua would be lifted once the species recovered.

The move has been sought for years by the East Otago Taiapure Committee based on the decline of paua in the area.

University of Otago researchers examined the percentage of paua within the 1m depth range above minimum harvestable size outside the closure areas.

They found a decline from 15% in 2008-09 to 4% in 2016.

Committee chairman Brendan Flack said commercial fisheries had agreed to leave the area temporarily but the group wanted this to be set in legislation.

''As generations go on, these agreements can get forgotten,'' he said.

There was a lot of recreational paua fishing in the area, but there were other reasons for paua decline including habitat loss.

The hope was the changes would create a ''sustainable local fishery'' for generations to come.

''Evidence shows if we don't do something about it really soon it'll be taken from us,'' Mr Flack said.

Iwi had taken less paua in recent years to set an example and would cease taking fish altogether if there was a ban.

Paua Industry Council chairman Storm Stanley said there were several gaps in information in the consultation document.

It had no plan for mitigation of the displacement of paua fishing to the wider Otago coast.

''That's not a good thing for fisheries management.''

There was also no information on the level of recreational paua take in the area.

There was no detectable increase in paua populations in areas of the coast where paua fishing was banned, he said.

''This leads me to believe there is something else going on.''

He encouraged as many people as possible to make submissions on the document.

East Otago Fishing Club president Eric Boock said he was initially sceptical about the idea, but that was because of the way the ban was ''put to him''.

''We've had a yarn with Brendan Flack and his group with what's happening up there and we're getting along good.

''Everyone wants to see the paua come back to the area so we fully support the idea that if they need to shut it down for a time to let things reproduce that's fine.''

Submissions close on December 7.

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