Crayfish ‘functionally extinct’ in Hauraki Gulf

Accusations of bias from commercial interests have been directed at LegaSea since we launched the Crayfish Crisis campaign in July.

Commercial fishers argue there are abundant crayfish stocks between Pakiri and the East Cape of the North Island, and that we are creating an issue where none exists. This assessment conflicts with independent scientific research, and recreational and customary fishers who confirm the depletion of crayfish stocks in many traditional hotspots.

LegaSea wants you to know we will not back down.

LegaSea is committed to raising awareness of the need for MPI Minister, Nathan Guy, to restore crayfish stocks to abundant levels, for the benefit of current and future generations. This is his job, and his statutory obligation to us, the people of New Zealand.

The plain truth is we could have plenty of crayfish for everyone if the fisheries were managed to higher levels, but the only people that can deliver abundance is the Minister, and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

It is difficult to see a solution in the shortterm when, on the one hand you have commercial fishers adamant that all is well, and on the other hundreds of people who consider the CRA2 fishery to be decimated.

In 2014, one of New Zealand’s most respected scientists, Alison MacDiarmid, commented that, “Rock lobster was the third most trophically important benthic invertebrate group in the region [Hauraki Gulf ] before human arrival. Rock lobster are now the least important”.

Backing her is another scientist, marine ecologist Tim Haggit. In 2016 Haggit said the numbers of crayfish are so low in the Gulf that they no longer contribute to the marine ecology. Crayfish are “functionally extinct”.

These are damning assessments. The Hauraki Gulf is a significant part of the CRA2 management area between Northland and East Cape.

In our view, the crayfish resource in the CRA2 area is no longer able to replenish itself.

Given the seriousness of these concerns, LegaSea undertook a survey earlier in the year with the outcome showing a surprising level of support for a closure of the fishery. Recreational divers and potters were prepared to forego their catch in the short-term so there is more for everyone in the future.

Crayfish stocks have been in the Quota Management System since 1990 and now, after 27 years of “mismanagement” CRA2 has collapsed.

LegaSea urges you to watch the CRA 2 video and petition your local MP for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Quota Management System. It’s broken. It needs fixing, and we can start with a restoration programme for CRA2.

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