Concerned fishing sectors working together to rebuild Gisborne’s lobster fishery
13 July 2007
People in the wider Gisborne region are passionate about their lobster fishery. Not surprising when you realise the spiny red rock lobsters are taonga to Maori, are sought after by local recreational fishers and tourists alike, and are the backbone of the local fishing economy. So when lobster numbers are down like they are now, key stakeholder groups don’t just sit back and wait for the world to change. They take action.
Stakeholders in the local rock lobster fishery (known as CRA3), which runs from East Cape south to Wairoa River, have formed the CRA3 Fishing Forum. The forum’s stated purpose is to develop, implement and manage a CRA3 management plan to rebuild the fishery's stocks and maintain sustainability.
The Forum includes locally-mandated recreational and commercial fishers, and tangata whenua.
“It’s really all about kaitiakitanga” says Gordon Aston, a tangata whenua representative on the forum. “We are only caretakers of the resource – we must keep it safe for our mokopuna, our grandchildren.”
The key goal, says commercial representative Gordon Halley "is to increase and maintain rock lobster abundance".
“And deliver a fishery that is for all sectors,” adds Alain Jorion, a representative for recreational fishers.
The Minister of Fisheries cut the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) from 327 tonnes to 190 tonnes in 2005 in response to declining lobster numbers. Since then, the three sectors have been working closely together to add further protection to their fishery.
Their agreed goals are to deliver a sustainable CRA3 fishery, reduce illegal take, protect and enhance fishing access for all sectors, protect the fishery environment, and improve information for decision making. Members have identified a range of possible management tools and are now assessing which would best help them meet their goals.
These fishers are not strangers to declining numbers of the highly valued rock lobster.
Like many fishstocks in New Zealand, the environment plays an important part in abundance. For example, settlement of juvenile lobsters can be affected by many environmental factors such as ocean currents and temperature, and the persistence of southerly storms.
Lobster numbers in CRA3 reached an all time low in the early 1990s. Then, like now, local fisheries stakeholders worked together to rebuild the fishery.
The stock recovered well, helped by some good settlement years, but this trend didn't last for long.
“We need to stay vigilant,” says Mark Ngata, a commercial fishing representative. “It’s not just about today. We are in this for the long-haul.”
Taking into account unpredictable and unknown environmental factors makes the development of a CRA3 management plan all the more challenging for the forum’s members. They acknowledge the challenges and have set themselves the goal of having a management plan completed by the end of this year.