$8m snap­per tag­ging plan stirs de­bate

Waiheke Marketplace - - Front Page - JAMES PASLEY AND ROSE DAVIS

Some ex­perts say an $8 mil­lion snap­per tag­ging pro­gramme to as­sess num­bers is too lit­tle, too late.

The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries plans to re­search snap­per num­bers and move­ments over the next three years by elec­tron­i­cally tag­ging 100,000 fish.

The re­view is likely to be­gin this sum­mer in the Snap­per One area off the east coast of the up­per North Is­land. The fish will be caught by long lines and tags the size of rice grains will be in­serted into their gut cav­i­ties. Ini­tial re­sults are ex­pected by 2019 or 2020 and fi­nal re­sults in 2022.

Auck­land ma­rine bi­ol­o­gist Roger Grace sup­ported the re­search, but said a more rad­i­cal ap­proach must be taken to stop snap­per dis­ap­pear­ing.

‘‘More un­der­stand­ing of snap­per is a pretty im­por­tant thing, but there are al­ready things we know we can do to im­prove the snap­per sit­u­a­tion, which is pretty dire in Snap­per One. With snap­per stock at 19 per cent in 2013, that’s pretty pa­thetic, so they need to take some pretty dras­tic mea­sures,’’ Dr Grace said.

Snap­per is not only a favourite com­mer­cial and recre­ational catch, but has a key role in the eco-sys­tem, he said. Both snap­per and cray­fish, which are se­verely de­pleted, keep kina num­bers down.

Left unchecked, kina have de­stroyed the kelp forests and ma­rine habi­tats on shal­low reefs through­out the Snap­per One area over the past 30 years, Grace said.

‘‘What we need in the Hau­raki Gulf is a good net­work of ma­rine re­serves, be­cause only ma­rine re­serves will re­store the full size range of snap­per and al­low the reef ecol­ogy to re­cover.’’

Wai­heke Lo­cal Board chair­per­son Paul Walden said it was wor­ry­ing that the snap­per re­search is be­ing car­ried out by the Min­istry of Pri­mary In­dus­tries, which is ‘‘pri­mar­ily con­cerned about catch­ing fish’’, rather than the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion. Both Walden and Grace sug­gested 10 per cent of New Zealand wa­ters should be pro­tected in ma­rine re­serves, but less than one per cent is cur­rently pro­tected.

‘‘We’ve got 30 per cent of our ter­res­trial coun­try in con­ser­va­tion es­tates, we’ve got lots of indige­nous bird species that it’s il­le­gal to kill, yet we’ve got this free for all hap­pen­ing at sea,’’ Walden said.

‘‘What we need in the Hau­raki Gulf is a good net­work of ma­rine re­serves’’ Dr Roger Grace

The last snap­per tag­ging project was car­ried out in 1993. DELWYN DICKEY

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