Otago Harbour cockle fishing trials given go ahead
13 July 2009
The Ministry of Fisheries has approved a special permit for the Dunedin-based fishing company, Southern Clams Ltd, to carry out research trials on commercial cockle fishing in Otago Harbour.
The research will measure and record the environmental impact of commercial-scale cockle fishing in the harbour and determine if ongoing commercial fishing would be sustainable.
“We estimate that Otago Harbour holds around 70,000 tonnes of cockles, making it probably the largest cockle stock in the country” said Inshore Fishery Manager Rose Grindley.
“These research trials will help us to assess whether commercial fishing for cockles in Otago Harbour would be sustainable and appropriate” she said.
The research trials involve fishing an area of 90 hectares (around 3% of the intertidal area of the harbour) using a hand dredge on two banks in the middle of the harbour near Port Chalmers. A further 90 hectares will be left un-fished as a control and will be compared against the fished area. Around 650 tonnes of cockles will be taken each year, depending on cockle density.
The special permit has been issued for three years, with the possibility of a conditional extension for a further two years. The trials will take place in three phases, with each dependent on the results of the previous phase and a recovery of the cockle beds.
Cockles will be taken under fishing quota already held by Southern Clams and will be commercially sold. There will be no increase in the current Total Allowable Catch limit for cockles in Otago as a result of the special permit.
The trials will be closely monitored to ensure there are no unacceptable environmental impacts and there are safeguards in place to protect sensitive areas such as eelgrass beds. The impact of the trials on cockle numbers (including juvenile cockles), the ecosystems in the cockle banks, sea birds in the area and the structure of the cockle banks themselves will be assessed.
“Impacts on fishing and other activities in the harbour are expected to be minor and we will be closely monitoring any environmental impacts” Ms Grindley said.
Consultation on the application showed mixed views within the community, with similar numbers of submitters supporting and opposing the application.
“We carefully considered all submissions before approving the special permit and, where appropriate, altered the research programme or imposed special permit conditions” said Ms Grindley.
More information on the research programme and special permit is available here>>>