Huttons shearwaters around a boat
Image: Graeme A Taylor | DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


DOC is concerned that a sudden increase in poaching from the Hikurangi Marine Reserve could devastate the local pāua population, and undo years of careful preservation.

Date:  03 January 2022

Located approximately 10 km south of Kaikōura, the Hikurangi Marine Reserve has been invaluable in protecting the region’s marine biodiversity since it was established in 2014, with pāua, kina, and rock lobster being the most well-known macro-invertebrates inhabiting the reefs.

A trial pāua season in specific areas opened 1 December 2021 and will close on 28 February 2022. The marine reserve, which runs along only 1.6km of coastline, remains closed to all fishing.

DOC senior marine biodiversity ranger Dr Jody Weir is worried, if things continue as they have for the last month, the pāua could be decimated before the season ends.

“Hikurangi Marine Reserve remains a strict no-take area,” says Jody, “even if the nearby areas are not. People cannot remove or disturb any marine life within the reserve or take any other material like shells from the beach, water, or seabed. It’s really worrying to see the number of people trying to gather from the protected area;”

The Hikurangi Marine Reserve is protected by the Marine Reserves Act and Fisheries Act. Penalties for taking marine life from a marine reserve include on the spot infringement fines of up to $600, as well up to three months in prison, forfeiture of boats and fishing equipment, and fines of up to $10,000.

“Some people seem genuinely surprised they aren’t allowed to take from the reserve, even though we’ve got multiple signs, and we’re increasing the ranger presence on the reserve,” says Dr Weir. “Regardless of intention, these actions may damage the reserve beyond repair, and we all need to pull together before this becomes a biodiversity catastrophe we can’t come back from.”

It is up to each individual to know all the rules that apply at the location they wish to gather from. Download the MarineMate app and check all signage to ensure you are allowed to gather from an area.

Anyone who spots suspicious activity in a marine reserve including the removal of fish or shellfish should call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) or 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468).


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