29 Nov 2016

Kaikōura fishers begin surveying crayfish stocks

6:16 pm on 29 November 2016

Fishers in Kaikōura have begun surveying crayfish stocks in the wake of this month's earthquake, under the supervision of primary industry officials.

The earthquakes lifted the seabed by up to 4m along nearly 100km of coastline near Kaikōura, exposing vast quantities of sea life.

The earthquakes lifted the seabed up by metres along nearly 100km of coastline near Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Simon Morton

Parts of the coastline both north and south of Kaikōura were lifted by an estimated two to three metres, exposing crayfish, pāua and kina.

A month-long rāhui, or ban, has been placed on the Kaikōura crayfish (kōura) and pāua fisheries.

Yesterday, local pāua gatherers and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff said they had re-located up to 56 tonnes of pāua back into the ocean.

MPI fisheries scientist Julie Hill said local crayfish fishers were now two days into a catch-and-release programme to assess what had happened to the fishery.

"We've commissioned six vessels from the local industry... We will ask the fishers to fish as normally as possible and set their pots."

MPI fisheries scientist Julie Hill

MPI fisheries scientist Julie Hill Photo: RNZ

The fishers would check and re-set the pots every day for a fortnight, Dr Hills said.

"What we do is compare [the catch] pre-earthquake with [the catch] post-earthquake, and we use that as a way of giving us an indication of any changes in the abundance of the animals prior to and post the earthquake."

It was too early in the survey to say how the stock was looking, but there had been other positive signs, she said.

"When I was out with the pāua fishers the other day, we actually didn't see many dead crayfish up on the newly-raised platforms, so that's promising, because it would indicate that those animals that got stranded straight after the uplift did manage to get back into the water."

The data from the survey would be used to inform decisions about the management of the fishery over the next few months, Dr Hill said.