A reef with more fishing gear than fish

On Friday I surveyed a reef at Shakespear Open Sanctuary on Whangaparāoa Peninsular. The tide was out at Te Haruhi Bay and I walked East towards the rocks. The beach was covered with protected shorebirds feeding in the sand and seagrass. Unfortunately the situation under the water was not so abundant with many keystone species missing.

I didn’t find any mussel beds or crayfish. This was no surprise as these species are unprotected and functionally extinct in the Gulf. But after two hours in the water with good visibility (5-6meters) I was surprised not to see a single Snapper, Leather jacket or Red moki. Not even a small one. The experience reminded me of the “empty cathedrals” metaphor used to describe our pest ridden forests which are empty of birdsong. In the marine version of this metaphor, fishers are the pests. The nearby cable zones mean that there should not be any commercial fishing in the area, there are nobody but recreational fishers to blame for the lack of fish.

It’s really disappointing that fishers have taken so much from the reef, even worse it was littered with fishing gear. I counted thirteen lead sinkers, so there must be hundreds scattered about. Lead is known to inhibit development in aquatic organisms. Plastic nylon ran through the kelp and I even found a fishing rod and makeshift Ikejime tool on the seafloor.

We need stronger regulation of recreational fishing to better manage reef environments.

Reef report here.