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Crayfish and sustainability

To scuba divers the mere mention of the word crayfish has many going into some form of euphoria. The fact is, a lot of thought and consultation goes into managing New Zealand’s rock lobster fishery.

Rock Lobster is the prime target species for recreational divers. It is also synonymous with restaurant diners both in New Zealand and around the world. Rock Lobster is New Zealand’s third largest seafood earner and therefore, its sustainability is important to the economy. Also the species is considered a taonga to many hapu. This indicates cultural importance in terms of sustainability which, in turn, is significant for protecting this treasured species. One of the main problems in managing rock lobster fisheries is meeting the requirements of all stakeholders. One can appreciate the importance of keeping the rock lobster fisheries sustainable – we have to learn from our mistakes.

The NZUA recognises the management effort to manage all of New Zealand’s rock lobster fishery areas (CRA). As with any fishery, there is always concern of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) levels being set too high. It must be recognised that rock lobster populations are known to fluctuate with changes in their environment. These changes can have marked effect on (CRA) an area’s sustainability from being sustainable one year but not in the following year. Management of rock lobster must focus on sustainability and not be influenced by the pressure of opening new markets overseas. Our ocean resources have never been at such a critical level of sustainability and that threatens the whole marine ecosystem. The NZUA takes the cautionary approach to any recommendation to the suggestion of any increase in TAC.

The rock lobster fisheries are monitored using a number of tools such as tagging and larval settlement programmes, industry and observer catch sampling and catch/effort forms submitted by the commercial sector. The NZUA also recognises the need to act quickly to incidences of stock level decline caused by the forces of nature. The NZUA has been a regular participant in the submission process for rock lobster sustainability measures.

 

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