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Seafood industry puts case

The seafood industry’s case has been argued by a representative at the Marine and Coastal Area [Takutai Moana] Act 2011 hearings currently underway at the Copthorne Hotel in Solway, Masterton.

The hearings are an opportunity for iwi to confirm their customary rights and title by providing evidence of exclusive use and occupation of an area since 1840, as enabled by the legislation that replaced the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004.

Daryl Sykes took the stand yesterday to present his own affidavit and evidence on behalf of the seafood industry.

Sykes has several years of experience working as an executive officer and later operating officer to the Rock Lobster Industry Council, and has been actively involved in the fishing industry for over 50 years, he said.

He acknowledged the long-standing history of customary fishing along the eastern coast of the North Island but also emphasised that commercial fisheries have been operating in the region for several decades too.

Sykes claimed that Māori have “always been closely involved in the business and activity of commercial fishing”.

Wellington and Napier serve as the primary ports for larger fishing vessels that operate on the south and east coast of Wairarapa and southern Hawkes’ Bay.

“There are no safe harbours between Wellington and Napier,” he said, so smaller vessels involved in both pāua and lobster fishery industries consequently need to launch from beaches along the coast.

To continue this practice, fisheries will need to continue working with local landowners to ensure access.

Although customary titles would not prevent access according to the Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011, Sykes said the impact of beach launches has been criticised by various parties, including the applicants for customary titles.

Sykes said this criticism doesn’t take into account the management regime “authorised by the fisheries legislation over time which has recognised the benefits of reducing biomass levels in order to produce long-term sustainable yields”.

Earlier this year, daily pāua limits for recreational divers were slashed in half from 10 to five with the support of local divers, community members, and tangata whenua after reports of low pāua stock.

A 2021 stock assessment of pāua along Wairarapa’s coastline showed they were at a sustainable level, a finding that contradicted several anecdotal eyewitness accounts of significant decreases in pāua numbers at the hearings last week.

Sykes confirmed that he is not an expert in tikanga or Māori customary fishing and that his expertise is with regards to kōura [crayfish/rock lobster].

In his testimony last week, Reon Te Maari-Kerr, who is a representative for Ngāti Hinewaka [a hapū based in Wairarapa’s southeast coast] as well as a rohe moana kaitiaki [ocean guardian] for Ngāi Tūmapūhia A Rangi [a hapū based further north along the coast], said that he often doesn’t “bother” with searching for kōura due to the lack of them in areas where he dives and their inability to be used for customary events unless there is a substantial number of them.

The hearings are expected to last several weeks, with closing submissions scheduled to take place in Wellington at the end of October.

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