The prob­lem with our p¯aua

To eat it is a priv­i­lege and to col­lect it is a tra­di­tion, but greed and harsh en­vi­ron­men­tal changes are dev­as­tat­ing Taranaki’s pa¯ua stocks.

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - Tara Shaskey re­ports.

The days of head­ing to the beach, scut­tling across the rocks and freely gath­er­ing your limit of 10 pa¯ ua is nearly a thing of the past. De­spite strict daily lim­its and nu­mer­ous op­er­a­tions to stop poach­ing, Taranaki’s pa¯ ua stocks are in de­cline.

While gath­er­ing the shell­fish has long been the Kiwi way for those with a love of fish­ing and cook­ing – or who sim­ply know Tan­garoa will pro­vide when in need – Rawiri Door­bar believes the writ­ing is on the wall for pa¯ ua. The days of tak­ing it for granted are over.

‘‘The en­vi­ron­ment is not sus­tain­ing the amount of ca­sual har­vest­ing that is tak­ing place,’’ the Ota­raua hapu¯ chair­man says.

In the past decade Door­bar has ob­served a slump in pa¯ ua stocks along the coast of Waitara, home to his Te A¯ ti Awa hapu¯ .

He says there are a num­ber of rea­sons for the de­cline. Peo­ple are tak­ing more than their limit, for a start. But they are also care­less in the way they col­lect and dis­turb the reef’s ecol­ogy, making it harder for stocks to re­cover.

Poach­ing is com­mon­place and con­vic­tions for it are just the tip of the ice­berg.

In the past five years the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) has recorded

41 con­vic­tions for tak­ing pa¯ ua in ex­cess of the le­gal daily limit within Taranaki. Of those con­vic­tions, Kawaroa Reef in New Ply­mouth has been hit the most, MPI says, but the worst of the of­fend­ing hap­pened on the reefs near Okato.

On Oc­to­ber 9 last year, four gath­er­ers were stopped at a check­point on State High­way 45. In the boot of their car fish­ery of­fi­cers found four bags con­tain­ing 736 pa¯ ua. Of those 703 were less than the 85-mil­lime­tre min­i­mum. Two of the of­fend­ers were sen­tenced to 200 hours of com­mu­nity work, another was or­dered to en­gage in ser­vice to his own com­mu­nity to the tune of 200 hours, and the fourth de­nied the charge and elected a judge alone trial. They are just the ones that are caught and just one part of the prob­lem. Door­bar knows there is no way to catch peo­ple har­vest­ing care­lessly be­cause there is noth­ing ‘‘il­le­gal’’ about that. ‘‘Peo­ple are just turn­ing over rocks as op­posed to care­fully look­ing un­der them and putting them back where they found them. ‘‘It is like plough­ing the reef.’’ Har­vested year-round, the black-foot and yel­low-foot pa¯ ua, two of New Zealand’s three na­tive pa¯ ua species, can be found in shal­low, rocky ar­eas of the re­gion’s coast­line.

The only spots ex­empt from gath­er­ing are pro­tected marine re­serves Ta­puae, be­tween New Ply­mouth and Oakura, and Parininihi, just south of Ton­ga­porutu.

Us­ing scuba equip­ment when collecting the large sea snails, whose beau­ti­fully coloured shells are ad­mired world­wide, is il­le­gal and there is no com­mer­cial fish­ery for pa¯ ua in Taranaki.

In te ao Ma¯ ori, pa¯ ua is an ‘‘ab­so­lute taonga’’, Door­bar says. ‘‘It re­flects so much more than just food on the ta­ble.’’

Pa¯ ua, known as abalone abroad, is one of the last tan­gi­ble con­nec­tions Ma¯ ori has to the whenua and is a recog­nised part of the cul­ture’s cus­tom­ary make-up, Door­bar says.

‘‘Once these con­nec­tions are sev­ered, we are that much fur­ther away from who we were or who we as­pire to be.’’

Door­bar isn’t com­pletely sure how to save the stocks but believes it could start with reg­u­lar kaimoana sur­veys and hand­ing over man­age­ment of the re­source to tan­gata whenua.

Cur­rently there are three full­time fish­ery of­fi­cers and six hon­orary of­fi­cers in Taranaki. They have a tough job and are un­der re­sourced but the

re­al­ity is only a frac­tion of poach­ers are be­ing caught, Door­bar says.

The law cur­rently al­lows tan­gata whenua to is­sue per­mits for cus­tom­ary har­vest, which means kaiti­aki can grant the tak­ing of more kaimoana so long as it is for cus­tom­ary pur­poses, such as tangi.

There were 176 cus­tom­ary per­mits is­sued within Taranaki in the past five years. But, as per the law, this is where on­the-ground au­thor­ity ends for tan­gata whenua.

No­body can know for cer­tain how bad the de­cline is. MPI says there is no biomass sur­vey for pa¯ ua in Taranaki.

But one lo­cal ci­ti­zen sci­ence project could change that.

Seachange Sur­veys sup­ports com­mu­ni­ties in the mon­i­tor­ing of coastal species, and for its pi­lot project the fo­cus is black­foot pa¯ ua.

The project, led by res­i­dents of Oa¯ kura and Okato and funded by Cu­ri­ous Minds, kicked off at the be­gin­ning of the year af­ter lo­cal fish­er­men and mem­bers of Nga¯ Ma­hanga a Tairi hapu¯ voiced con­cern over di­min­ished pa¯ ua stocks in the South Taranaki area.

‘‘They had no in­for­ma­tion on how much they have di­min­ished or no ref­er­ence to work from,’’ marine bi­ol­o­gist and project co-or­di­na­tor Ni­cole Sturgess says.

The group has since be­gun mon­i­tor­ing Ahu Ahu Reef in Oa¯kura, as well as an un­named reef at Ta­puae Marine Re­serve to the north.

The data will show how pa¯ ua num­bers vary over time, and how they com­pare with ad­ja­cent population­s, which is a pow­er­ful tool when con­sid­er­ing the man­age­ment of the re­source.

‘‘We have got two 50-me­tre tran­sects which run par­al­lel along the reef. We are plac­ing 10 one-me­tre squared quadrates ran­domly along the tran­sects’ line and then we are look­ing at pa¯ ua num­bers and their sizes as well as their habi­tat.’’

Sturgess hopes to add two reefs to the project ev­ery year as well as con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor the ear­lier reefs.

Re­search by Na­tional In­sti­tute of Water and At­mo­spheric Re­search (Niwa) and Otago Univer­sity sci­en­tists has re­cently re­vealed pa¯ ua is also un­der threat from the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

The re­search shows in­creased sea­wa­ter tem­per­a­tures and ocean acid­i­fi­ca­tion will af­fect the thick­ness of pa¯ ua shells, pos­si­bly making them less re­sis­tant to waves and preda­tors.

Ar­eas in Taranaki that ex­pe­ri­ence par­tic­u­larly high recre­ational pres­sure in­clude Coast Rd, Pun­garehu, Kawaroa Reef, New Ply­mouth, Puke­tapu reef, O¯ eo, Arawhata Rd, Opunake, Mid­dle­tons Bay, Lower Kina Rd, and O¯ aonui.

MPI spokesman An­dre Espinoza says some of these ar­eas ap­pear to be in de­cline.

‘‘This may be due to many vary­ing fac­tors and it could be a com­bi­na­tion of high recre­ational pres­sure, poach­ing, non­com­pli­ance, sand move­ment, al­gae de­struc­tion due to weather and al­gae move­ment due to pre­da­tion.’’

He says fish­ery of­fi­cers in­spect gath­er­ers on ev­ery tide but the fu­ture of pa¯ ua comes down to peo­ple re­spect­ing the rules. ‘‘It does take the [pa¯ ua] pop­u­la­tion a long time to bounce back so our mes­sage is al­ways to take only enough for a feed, not for greed.’’

It is a sim­i­lar point Keith Manukonga, of hapu¯ Nga¯ti Tairi, south on Surf High­way, is try­ing to make.

The Okato kaiti­aki has stopped grant­ing cus­tom­ary per­mits. ‘‘The stocks just aren’t out there,’’ he says.

‘‘Peo­ple want a sack of pa¯ua for the ta­ble and I say: well no, you don’t need a sack of pa¯ ua for the ta­ble nowa­days. You don’t have to eat them for break­fast, lunch and tea for three days.’’

Pa¯ ua are a delicacy and peo­ple have to ease off them, he says.

In the past decade, pa¯ ua num­bers south of the coast have also dwin­dled and Manukonga says the ma­jor cause is the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Most of it has been due to the sand com­ing down Stony River. There was tonnes and tonnes all the way to New Ply­mouth. It swal­lowed every­thing up,’’ he says.

‘‘What couldn’t move out to sea got smoth­ered and died. It is only start­ing to clear up the last year or so.’’

Manukonga also blames recre­ational gath­er­ers, both ‘‘Ma¯ ori and Pa¯ keha¯ , lo­cal and out-of-town­ers’’, for the de­cline.

‘‘When they know there is a good tide, bang, ev­ery­one hits the reefs.’’

Plac­ing a ra¯ hui on cer­tain ar­eas may help re­plen­ish stocks but Manukonga wor­ries that once such a ban is lifted it would be a free for all.

So, he too is not sure what the an­swer is but says the obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the stocks sur­passes tan­gata whenua, MPI and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups.

‘‘Peo­ple need to take in­di­vid­ual re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure there is enough for the fu­ture.’’


Pa¯ ua stocks across the Taranaki coast­line are in a state of de­cline. Causes in­clude poach­ing, with Kawaroa Reef in New Ply­mouth be­ing plun­dered the most over the past five years.

Har­vested year-round, the black-foot pa¯ua is found in shal­low, rocky ar­eas of Taranaki’s coast­line.


Ci­ti­zen sci­ence project Seachange Sur­veys has be­gun mon­i­tor­ing pa¯ua stocks at Ahu Ahu Reef, Oa¯kura, as well as an un­named reef at Ta­puae Marine Re­serve.

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