24 Dec 2008

Opposing applications over Otago Harbour

6:07 am on 24 December 2008

The Ministry of Fisheries is considering two opposing applications relating to fishing in the Otago Harbour.

The ministry has been considering a request for a special permit to conduct research into harvesting shellfish from the harbour by the Southern Clams company.

It is currently harvesting clams, known locally as cockles, from Blueskin Bay north of Dunedin. The company says it has been able to harvest 800 - 900 tonnes of clams a year without reducing the shellfish population.

Southern Clams wants to show in a five-year research programme that sustainable harvesting is also possible in Otago Harbour, which it says contains the richest clam beds.

Countering that is an application from a group representing local Maori, Te Rununga o Otakou, to declare almost the entire harbour area a reserve, or mataitai, which would prevent commercial fishing.

A Ministry of Fisheries analyst in Dunedin, Alan Fraser, says a comprehensive consultation process has to be undergone before a decision can be made on either application.