Northland Regional Council confirms that a fishing ban in the Bay of Islands has been officially adopted
Commercial fishing methods, such as bottom trawling and purse seining, will be banned to a depth of 100 meters around Cape Brett. Photography / Peter de Graaf
Northland Regional Council has set off into uncharted waters to regulate fishing sites after new no-go fishing areas were officially approved in the Bay of Islands.
The rule change comes on the back of a groundbreaking Environment Court decision that created the two new zones and banned the most harmful forms of commercial fishing from the seas surrounding Cape Brett.
The court ruling banned all fishing, including recreational fishing, from Maunganui Bay (deep water bay) to Auki Bay, near Rauhiti, as well as the waters around Mmiwangata, 50 kilometers north of Whangarei.
Two commercial fishing methods – bottom trawling and purse seine fishing – have also been banned around Rakaumangamanga (Cape Brett) at a depth of about 100 metres. The area begins just north of Maunganui Bay, extends around the Cape and ends just north of Elliot Bay.
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Exceptions to the no-hunting rules include eucalyptus harvesting and activities associated with research, restoration and tikanga – such as traditional hunting.
The Council expected that its formal adoption of new prohibited fishing areas would provide much-needed protection to important areas on the Northland coast.
Local hapū te ori o hikihiki and Ngāti Kota ki te rohiti had previously expressed concerns that overfishing had led to the disappearance of the mori (life force) of the moana (ocean). Both called for a reduction in hunting pressure to allow the area to return to its former glory.
Council leader Toi Shortland said they were working in partnership with iwi, hapū and communities in determining how to implement the new rules.
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The council acknowledged that the rule changes would have a significant impact on it, since regulating recreational or commercial fishing sites is not a job it has previously undertaken.
Shortland said the council’s initial focus will be on education and advocacy about the reasons for creating no-go zones. In addition, the Council will ensure that the rules are understood, communicated and respected.
Violators of the rules can impose fines of up to $300,000 on an individual or $600,000 on an organization, or imprisonment for up to two years.
The Environment Court’s decision is groundbreaking because it is the first time anyone has successfully used the Resource Management Act to ban specific commercial fishing practices.
The lawsuit dates back to 2017, when Northland Regional Council issued a regional plan that did not include any controls on hunting.
Conservation groups Fish Forever and Forest & Bird have appealed for the plan, with support from local hapu.
They presented evidence to the court showing a decline in environmental values associated with fishing, including the widespread loss of kelp forests and the barren expansion of kina due to declining numbers and sizes of snapper and crayfish.
While legal action was taken against the regional council, it was convinced by the evidence and supported the fishing restrictions.
The Environment Court process meant that no public consultation could take place on the no-take rules, but the council upheld the court’s decision because of the evidence and because it reflected the concerns of the local hapū, Ngāti Kōta ki Te Rauhiti and Te Ori o Hikihiki.
(tags for translation)Northland