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Shellfish Limits Must Be Enforced, Say Greens

Reductions in bag limits for Coromandel shellfish announced today will be pointless without better enforcement, says Coromandel MP Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"A reduction in bag limits is a positive step in restoring shellfish beds, but unless enforcement improves it will only see law-abiding locals eating less while outsiders strip the coast bare," she said.

Fisheries Minister John Luxton today announced a big reduction in recreational bag limits for oysters, cockles, pipi, tuatua and mussels around the Coromandel.

Ms Fitzsimons called for government to better resource honorary fisheries officers to stop the plunder, especially by semi-professional harvesters from Auckland and Hamilton.

Only six honorary fisheries officers worked between Thames and East Cape and they had to patrol inland eel fisheries as well, she said.

While the Fisheries Ministry had been looking at basing two more officers at Whitianga, there was little official money to support them.

"A recent clampdown in Auckland seems to have forced illegal harvesters to places like Kawhia and unlucky few who have been caught - most get away with it."

Ms Fitzsimons praised honorary fisheries officers for their unpaid work, but said their patrol of beaches needed greater official status and support. Other coastal people also had to remain vigilant. A seaside "neighbourhood fisheries watch" was needed to protect the Coromandel, she said.

She also called for a public education campaign to make people aware of the bag limits and why they were needed.

"Based on the experience in other fisheries, unless there is a public education campaign and better enforcement, the bag limits will just keep going down, and the shellfish will still be stripped by illegal fishing.

"Without more resources to police the limits, they are meaningless," Ms Fitzsimons said. "We need to catch the offenders, not punish the law-abiding."

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