18 Nov 2016

Kaikoura locals back fishing ban despite economic pressure

7:51 am on 18 November 2016

Locals in Kaikoura admit a proposed fishing ban would hit them hard in the pocket but agree it is the right move.

Half, if not more of all crayfish and paua along the coastline may have perished in the 7.8 magnitude earthquake which struck the region on Monday.

Paua and crayfish sit on green grass.

Photo: 123RF

It pushed the seabed more than 1m above the surface in some places, stranding much of the sea life.

Divers and volunteers have been doing their best to throw thousands of crayfish and paua back into the ocean over the past few days, but a walk along the coast shows their effort is a drop in the bucket.

View RNZ's full coverage of the earthquakes here

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy visited the stricken town yesterday and urged radical action.

He said a fishing ban, to cover more than 40km of coastline, would give the marine life a chance to recover.

He met with local iwi, including the chair of Te Rūnanga o Kaikoura, Henare Manawatu, to explain his plan.

Mr Manawatu said he would be happy with a ban, even if it lasted a year or more.

"We think it's a good idea shutting it down, we're quite prepared to accept it with the understanding that if we have a tangi or a special occasion we can issue permits for divers to go and get our kaimoana under our cultural take."

He said his whānau would not have a problem keeping to the ban, but he could not speak for others.

"It doesn't matter what you put in place, you'll never stop poachers - if they want it, they'll take it," he said.

"It's people who come from out of town and take more than they're required, so if they're allowed six, they'll take more, and undersized paua too. It has been a real problem over the past few years."

Elsewhere, speaking at the local pub on the first night it reopened, charter fisherman Mark Sanford said the paua had taken a bigger hit, as crayfish could survive a few days out of water.

Paua and crayfish stranded after the earthquake

Paua and crayfish stranded after the earthquake Photo: RNZ/Simon Morton

"It's not going to be the same as it ever was as the seabed has risen that much," he said.

"Kaikoura is known as the home of paua and crayfish but it's not going to be like that again for, I'd say, 10 years."

He said local fishermen would be affected the most, but they would ultimately be alright.

"They are adaptable - I know one guy personally who is a builder, so he'll be busy and won't have time to go diving for paua for his quota."

He said his job was up in the air, not least of all because the seabed had risen to a point where many boats could not even go out into the water.

But he was not the only one in the town.

Jason Hill is the owner of a popular local fish and chips shop, Cooper's Catch. He said he and his family were looking forward to a bumper summer.

Jason Hill - for fish ban story

Jason Hill - for fish ban story Photo: Max Towle / RNZ

They were still planning on opening in a few days, but the possibility of the fishing ban put a dampener on hopes for the business.

"People come here to try the seafood, especially crayfish," he said.

"There are people who go out diving and on the water, but there are also the locals who'll be affected."

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