Guidelines for gathering paua

Sustainable fisheries within a healthy aquatic ecosystem

Why have a code of practice for amateur paua divers and hand-gatherers?

Recent studies have revealed that we have a special problem with paua. While most recreational fishers are responsible, some use fishing techniques which kill undersized paua. A number of practices used in the recreational paua fishery result in high mortalities of undersized paua through ignorance and poor harvesting techniques.

Lethal damage

Many fishers remove undersized paua from the reef surface using sharp instruments. This will usually result in some damage to the foot of the small paua. Paua are unable to clot blood when cut, so even the tiniest nick could result in the paua bleeding to death. Even if the paua survives the cut, the blood will attract predators into the area, and the paua may be killed before it has a chance to clamp down onto the rock surface. Furthermore, damage to the paua may reduce the ability of the paua to clamp onto the rock surface. Research has shown that damaged paua may develop abscesses, which will result in death weeks later.

Drying out

Paua should not be removed from the water and placed on deck to be counted and measured. Paua left in the sun quickly dry out and will soon die in these conditions.

Left to die

Undersized paua are commonly thrown back into the water with no thought of where the paua may end up. Paua thrown over areas of sand have no hope of survival. Even if paua are thrown over reef areas, they often land on their shell and take some time to right themselves and clamp onto the reef surface. While paua are not attached to a reef they are an easy meal for predators in their area.

Why worry?

Undersized paua should be thought of as next year's harvest. Death of any damaged paua that you return will not only lead to fewer paua in the following year, but also in years to come. This is because young stocks are the breeding stocks of the future.

You could be contributing to this problem quite unknowingly. It is important that you are aware of the impact your fishing techniques may be having on the paua resource.

How important are paua anyway?

  • Paua are unique to New Zealand and have always been an important part of our culture. It is in everyone's interests to look after the paua resource.
  • This shellfish is highly valued by Maori, recreational fishers and the commercial fishing industry.
  • Paua has always been a food source for Maori, and plays a significant role in manaakitanga ki nga manuhiri (hosting of visitors).
  • The recreational paua fishery is an important component of the New Zealand lifestyle.
  • Commercial exploitation of paua developed and expanded through the 1970's and 1980's into the lucrative commercial industry it is today. The paua industry is an important component of the
  • New Zealand economy, providing jobs and export earnings that benefit all New Zealanders.

Current regulations for amateurs

The amateur harvest of paua is controlled by daily bag and size limits: • Only 10 paua of each species are permitted per fisher each day.

  • The minimum legal sizes are 125 mm for the blackfoot paua (Haliotis iris) and 80 mm for the yellowfoot paua (Haliotis australis). This allows paua to reach maturity and breed before becoming large enough to harvest.
  • By law paua have to be landed in a measurable state (that is unshelled). This is to enable Fishery Officers to check that all harvested paua are greater than the legal takeable size.
  • Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA) is prohibited when collecting or in possession of paua (this includes having UBA in your vehicle or on your vessel). This is to prevent large areas of paua from being systematically cleared by divers and to leave stocks in deeper waters untouched. The removal of accumulated paua stocks could significantly reduce the productive potential of paua in the area.

What should you do if you see suspicious or illegal activity?

If you see others taking more than their daily limit or taking undersized fish, or if you are suspicious about the activity of a person or a group of people, please report what you have seen to the Ministry of Fisheries as soon as you can. If possible, record or memorise the following information:

  • Exact location, time and date
  • Vessel name and numbers, description of vessel type, colour, length
  • Vehicle registration numbers and a description of the make, model, and colour
  • Number and description of people involved (and names and addresses if known)
  • The details of what you observed or heard about or found.

Whether you phone or write to the Ministry of Fisheries, any information provided in confidence will remain confidential.

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Updated : 16 November 2007

Gathering Paua.