‘Near closure’ of the Hauraki Gulf tipa / scallop fishery a mystery and disappointment

Scallop bed in Ōtata / The Noises
An empty tipa / scallop bed at Ōtata / The Noises. Photo: Shaun Lee.

The tipa / scallop fishery decision made by Hon. David Parker last week was very controversial and well covered in the media (see NZ Herald, Stuff, 1 News, Radio NZ, NZ Geo, Forest & Bird, Newshub, Te Ao).

Our Minister of Oceans and Fisheries did not choose the most precautionary option recommended by staff. Instead of a full closure Parker chose to keep 5% of the Coromandel (SCA CS) fishery open. The usual rationale for this kind of decision is economic so let’s look at the numbers:

A full closure was predicted to cost $795k p.a. The Minister chose Option 2 which reduced the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) by $715k p.a. This means the 5 tonne (meat weight) left in the fishery is currently only worth $79.5k at 2021 prices. If we break it down by bed it means Aotea / Great Barrier is worth $25k p.a., Colville $7k p.a., Colville new bed $47k p.a. The market response will likely drive the 2020/21 port price of $15.90/kg up, so the entire Coromandel (SCA CS) catch may be worth more than $100k p.a. Nonetheless, c$100k is a pittance considering the risk of:

  1. Offending iwi partners Ngāti Manuhiri who have just placed a rāhui on the beds he wants to keep open (the section 186a request has not yet been answered)
  2. The negative press around the decision (see above)
  3. The more serious risk of a complete collapse of the wider tipa fishery

So what is really going on here?  We wish we knew!  Many critics have been left puzzled by the decision. Industry lobby groups like the Coromandel Scallop Fishermans Association and Fisheries Inshore New Zealand are emphatic that the fishery is fine and question the information provided to the Minister. Interestingly however they seem supportive of transition to less destructive fishing methods (hand gathering using underwater breathing apparatus) but ask for support to do so.

Closing the last commercial tipa beds is a huge statement about fisheries management in New Zealand. It’s a symbol of wider management failure that no one wants to front up to. Revive Our Gulf hope fisheries managers do not retreat from the tipa collapse and bury their heads in the sand, but step forwards and show leadership on a fisheries transition that will  help revitalise the gulf.

The two remaining areas where tipa/scallop dredging is permitted in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Source: Minister’s Decision Letter from the MPI website.

More info:

Read our submission on the closure