Regional | Kaimoana

Fishing rāhui in Russell aims to reinvigorate fishery

A rāhui on fishing in certain areas in the Bay of Islands, instigated by Kororāreka Marae in Russell, aims to give fishing stocks in the area a much-needed rest during Spring and early Summer.

Alex Clifford, from Kororāreka marae, says they could see the damage happening on a daily basis. So, five years ago they decided to do something about the decline.

"We got two or three of what I'd call expert people. We just didn't come up with a bright idea and go, 'this is the time to shut down'. They looked at it and said this is when these pipi spawn. This is when the mullet are spawning over that four-month period."

"[We were] looking into the sea here and watching things disappear, being depleted, and just the changing environment. More people, more boats, more noise."

The rāhui runs from Tahapuke Bay to the tip of Te Wahapu Peninsula and includes Pōmare, Uretī, and Ōrongo Bay. A longtime stalwart of Kororāreka Marae, Kelvin Cornish, says it was teeming with life before the decline of fish stocks in the harbour.

Rāhui becoming known

"The bay was full of fish, always full of fish. There were small schools of all sorts of fish coming in here. It was a good place to even catch nice fat snapper that had been up here in the mangroves.

"We want to protect this bay this inner harbour that's so close to Russell because there's not many like it that you can cut off and say 'hey, we want to stop this'."

Russell is a popular spot to holiday and also to fish, so Cornish says it was difficult to let people know about the rāhui.

"Most of them did not know without a doubt that there was a rāhui on even though we had posters out everywhere at every point."

But he also says the message has begun to sink into those that come to this part of the country.

"The majority of people, 99.9% have got on board with the rāhui and can see why we did it. They've seen an improvement in the sea life here."

The rāhui stands until December 31st, just in time for the holiday rush.