Thousands support shellfish

Mary Coupe and MP Chris Penk

A petition to stop the plundering of sea creatures from rock pools at Mahurangi beaches has gained more than 2800 signatures.

The petition to Parliament by Mary Coupe, of Omaha, asking the Government to reduce the legal take limit of various sea creatures, closed this week.

It will be handed over to Kaipara ki Mahurangi MP Chris Penk, who will present it to parliament to be referred to the petitions select committee.

Mr Penk says submitters may be invited to speak and the relevant departments, such as MPI, will be invited to respond.

The committee will then decide whether the response is sufficient and may make a recommendation on a course of action to the appropriate Minister or open an enquiry.

Mr Penk says 2800 signatures should be enough to get Parliament to take notice.

“The Omaha locals really are to be congratulated. It’s not like this was Forest and Bird – it’s a group of residents.”

In the meantime, Mary Coupe has engaged members of Ngātiwai, from Omaha Marae, and says a rāhui on taking sea creatures is being considered.

Signs erected by residents of Omaha asking visitors to look but not take sea life has had a definitive impact, but Mary fears the plundering has simply shifted elsewhere.

Mary says she has heard from residents of Pakiri who confronted visitors taking shellfish from the beach. She said the residents later found their tyres slashed.

Meanwhile, Mary contacted MPI and was told that locals who observe visitors taking in abundance should take photos of car licence plates and call the 0800 4 POACHER line.

Mary says she is proud of what the group of Omaha residents has been able to achieve in creating a platform to discuss conservation of local beaches.

The petition was started at the request of Omaha residents who were concerned that sea creatures from rock pools were being taken in unsustainable numbers, and legally so.

In Auckland and Northland, each individual is allowed a combined take of 50 crabs, limpets, starfish, periwinkles, cats eyes and sea cucumbers each day.

Meanwhile, coastal engineer Andre La Bonte, of Waipu, applauds Omaha’s efforts after his own beach was swamped with putrid red algae.

He hypothesises that the algal bloom in Waipu, currently causing a stench, is a result of the absence of shellfish and bottom feeders that filter the water.

“I’ve lived in Waipu for 35 years, and I used to be able to walk around the cove and find 20 to 30 tuatua for dinner. Then people started coming and taking them by the bucket-load.

“I tried at the time to get in touch with fisheries about the limit of 150 per day, but couldn’t overcome the legal hurdles. Now they have been decimated.”

Northland Regional Council says the “naturally occurring” algal bloom, and its hydrogen sulphide stench, will likely persist until an autumn storm flushes the cove.

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