South Taranaki Star

Pāua a privilege to protect


OPINION: The move by hapū to protect shellfish on the Taranaki coastline should come as a relief to us all, pāua lovers or not.

The pillaging of pāua stocks and other shellfish along the coast is nothing new. But lately the tales of busloads of people taking their limit has been alarming.

If nothing was done, the pāua, and the ecosystem they are a vital part of, would be devastated.

Placing a rāhui on the gathering of shellfish along part of the South Taranaki coast should avoid that.

Even without a Fisheries Act ban to bolster the restrictio­ns, the rāhui is a powerful message to would-be collectors and poachers.

While there is indeed nothing legally stopping people collecting their daily limit of 10 pāua from the area, the rāhui makes it morally and ecological­ly offensive.

It’s one thing to snub your nose at a law if it comes out of the Beehive in distant Wellington; it’s quite another thing entirely to snub your nose at the community living right behind the reefs who know the delicate balance of the ecosystem and have sounded the alarm.

There are some people who genuinely need access to our marine resources to feed themselves, but we have largely got to the situation we are in because of selfishnes­s, greed, and ignorance.

It was greed that forced the bag limits in the first place, selfishnes­s which sees people taking more than that anyway, and ignorance at the disastrous impact sustained pillaging has that sees people keep taking shellfish when it is obvious the stocks are in distress.

As with all environmen­ts, the removal of one element impacts other elements in ways it is impossible to predict.

Everything is intertwine­d.

Take all the pāua and that is not only the end of pāua fritters for everyone, but an end of the reef life as we know it.

Sure, human predation is not the only challenge our coastlines are facing. Pollution, global heating, and ocean acidificat­ion are all existentia­l threats in their own right. And these must be tackled too.

But these are issues that require complex and integrated solutions.

On the other hand, stopping the collection of shellfish for a defined period is something we can do now.

It must be hoped that the rāhui also makes us wake up to our responsibi­lities as guardians of the community we live in.

While we may see our ability to collect kaimoana as a right, it is more sustainabl­e to acknowledg­e it as a privilege and treat it accordingl­y.

Respect the rāhui and you are protecting that privilege.

❚ Matt Rilkoff is the editor at the Stuff newsroom in Taranaki.

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 ?? SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF ?? Hapū members have been acting as observers along coastal Taranaki this year in a bid to protect shellfish stocks.
SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF Hapū members have been acting as observers along coastal Taranaki this year in a bid to protect shellfish stocks.
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