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Choosing Sustainability Over Income – Rock Lobster Industry Takes Additional Steps To Support The CRA 3 Fishery

Rock lobster fishers in the Gisborne area have decided to take a commercial hit in the short term, agreeing to “shelve” a portion of their catch entitlement to support the long term health of the fishery.

The rock lobster industry is concerned about the performance of the CRA 3 fishery which was hit hard by the extreme weather events of early 2023. The fishery extends from Mahia north to Gisborne and East Cape. There is uncertainty about the stock status and fishers decided it was necessary to reduce fishing pressure.

The Minister’s decision to reduce the total allowable commercial catch in CRA 3 by 20% for the 2024/24 fishing year to support a sustainable fishery is respected. But the CRA 3 rock lobster industry has decided to go further, agreeing amongst themselves to an overall 30% reduction in commercial catch. This process is called “shelving” and the Tairawhiti Rock Lobster Industry Association, working with the NZ Rock lobster Industry Council, have now put in place adjusted shelving arrangements so that an additional 10% reduction in commercial catch is achieved for the 2024/25 fishing year.

The CEO of the NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council (NZ RLIC), Mark Edwards, says “the industry considers this is a responsible step to take the pressure off the fishery until any further management action can be considered. We will be in a better position to do this when the results of a revised full stock assessment and analysis of other post cyclone data, including industry log book data, are available later in 2024”.

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“The industry also wants to work with other fishery stakeholders to put in place improved management arrangements through the development of a fishery management plan and a management procedure for the area. It is important that those arrangements continue to be driven by the science and are responsive to signals from the fishery.”

Gisborne based processor and NZ RLIC director Salve Zame says the catch reductions represent a cost to his business and to operators who have had a difficult year - but the industry is focused on the long term. “We have been unlucky with the impacts of the cyclone, ongoing adverse weather for fishing, and the closure of the fishery for an extended period because of the algal blooms. It’s been a tough year. But we need to think about the next ten years and how we can keep this fishery sustainable.”

The Chief Executive of the Iwi Collective Partnership and the current Chair of CRA3, Ken Houkamau, says the decision had widespread support because the locals involved in the industry understand what’s at stake.

It’s about kaitiekitanga and protecting a taonga asset for generations to come. With shelving, we can respond quickly, because we are the ones on the ground who can see what is happening. If we need to be conservative, we will be. Fishers are conservative by nature and they understand that adopting a cautious strategy now will secure enduring advantages in the future, which is why we show respect for the environment we work in and the natural assets we generate a living from.”

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