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Submission on the Te Paepae Aotea (Volkner Rocks) Marine Reserve Proposal


The Department of Conservation and the Steering Committee have refused to leave the south ridge outside the proposed reserve boundaries therefore we are totally opposed to any Marine Reserve at the Volkner Rocks.

Kingfish is the species targeted at the Volkner Rocks. When the currents are running, which is a lot of the time, large kingfish are caught drift fishing with large baits. There is very little by-catch of any species. The single biggest impact of this proposal will be to close the fishery for kingfish, arguably one of the very best in the World. There is very little recreation fishing for other species, no other activities such as mining or dredging proposed, the air force and navy have even stopped using the Volkner Rocks for target practice.

The reason this proposal must be rejected is that none of the significant features listed in the justification are affected by the current kingfish fishery. Kicking out the New Zealanders and international tourists that pay good money for the Volkner Rocks fishing experience will not enhance the distinctive and unique features described in section 6.1. Fishing for kingfish will not disturb the spectacular underwater scenery, of the clear water, or the rare invertebrate species such as sponges and crabs, starfish and urchin. The smaller marine fishers of the Volkners might actually benefit from having a few less kingfish to feed.

The authors of this proposal clearly make the assumption that all fishing is bad for biodiversity and their will be a "recovery" phase once fishing has stopped. However there is absolutely no evidence of damage caused by fishing for kingfish on any of the "special features" or species the authors want to protect. Where is the current threat? Were is the Justification for Plucking Out one of the jewels in New Zealand recreational fishing and putting it off limits forever.

New Zealand recreational fishers have not been united. They have been poorly served by various agencies in terms of timely, well balanced information. Whilst often labelled apathetic, this is far from the truth. If only they knew the full extent of the threats to their most precious pastime of fishing for a feed for themselves, their families and friends. Most will realise to late that they could have had their say. It is proposals such as this that will galvanise opposition to future reserves, even were they justified.

The authors of the Volkner Rock marine reserve proposal have (deliberately?) misquoted the purpose of the Marine Reserves Act (1971). They have totally omitted the scientific study of marine life. Section 3.1 reads:

"It is hereby declared that the provisions of this Act shall have effect for the purpose of preserving, as marine reserves for the scientific study of marine life, areas of New Zealand …"

Whereas the authors only quote what type of areas may be preserved for scientific study, Section 3.1 continues:

"…that contain underwater scenery, natural features, or marine life, of such distinctive quality, or so typical, or beautiful, or unique, that their continued preservation is in the national interest."

Surely the Volkner Rocks proposal needs to be consistent with the primary purpose of the Marine Reserves Act (1971), which is scientific study. Far from it; the establishment of a marine reserve will severely constrain existing Ministry of Fisheries funded research into the age, growth rate and natural mortality of New Zealand kingfish.

Over 1000 kingfish have been tagged and released at the Volkner Rocks over the last 20 years as part of the Ministry of Fisheries Cooperative Tagging Programme (currently MFish project PEL2000/01). One of the key objectives of the tagging policy is to measure and tag fish larger than 1 metre long to help establish the growth rate of larger fish.

Over the last 2 years more than 170 kingfish have been tagged at Volkner Rocks with 95% of these measured before release - 72% (or 123 kingfish) were longer than 1 metre. There are few areas in New Zealand where large kingfish are tagged in these numbers. Over the last 2 years for all of New Zealand 433 kingfish greater than 1 metre have been measured and released so 28% of this total were tagged at the Volkner Rocks.

Recently another kingfish research project (Ministry of Fisheries project KIN2000/01) has begun collecting otolith samples and length data from Bay of Plenty charter boat skippers. To date about 90% of length data has come from recreational fishers from Volkner Rocks and White Island and nearly 50% of the otoliths (the ear bone used in estimating the age of fish) come from this area. Research into age and growth of kingfish will ultimately be used to determine natural mortality and therefore the productivity of the kingfish fishery in New Zealand, rather than using estimates for a Californian sub-species.

There is no doubt that existing and future research on kingfish will be detrimentally affected by the Volkner Rock Marine Reserve proposal. This is contrary to the purpose of the Marine Reserve Act (1971), which is to promote scientific study. Again, where is the justification for threatening these projects?

On the other hand the presence of the Kingfish fishery would in no way hinder studies into rare invertebrates, reef communities, or geological features at the Volkner Rocks.

The clear impression we get is that there is general pressure within DOC to make progress with marine reserves. This proposal was far enough down the track already that the Department wants to push it through regardless of the impact on recreational fishers, who after all are not one of their key "stakeholders".

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