Ohiwa Harbour Officially Close to Mussel Take
5 December 2003
A formal ceremony was held today to officially close Ohiwa Harbour, in the Bay of Plenty, to the taking of green-lipped mussels for a period of two years.
Concerns about the state of the mussel beds had led to divers from Upokorehe hapu and Ngati Awa iwi to carry out inspections of the mussel beds, which indicated that both the number of mussels and the individual size were quite small.
Consequently, last year local iwi and hapu placed a rāhui, or traditional closure, over the Ohiwa Harbour in order to protect this depleted green-lipped mussel resource. They then asked the Minister of Fisheries to provide statutory support for the rāhui by implementing an official temporary closure.
Scientific monitoring carried out over three decades by the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) and NIWA had also indicated that the state of the green-lipped mussel beds in Ohiwa Harbour can fluctuated widely. The combination of low abundance, small mussel size and expected high mortality rate made these shellfish very vulnerable to over exploitation. A two year closure will allow the current small sized mussels to grow to full size before re-commencing harvesting.
Extensive consultation about the temporary closure has taken place with iwi, hapu and organisations representing the local authorities, regional council, Department of Conservation, sport fishing and boating clubs, coast guard and conservation groups in the area. There was strong local support for the proposal.
The Minister of Fisheries, Hon Pete Hodgson, agreed to provide statutory support for the rāhui by using the temporary closure provisions of section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996. A ceremony at the Ohope Golf Club, overlooking the Ohiwa Harbour, officially bought the closure into effect today.
Iwi plan to monitor the mussel beds during the temporary closure, using students from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic Marine Studies course.