The unmanaged fisheries of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

In New Zealand, we have 75 fish populations that are supposed to be managed sustainably. The main way we do this is by setting limits on how many fish can be caught, known as the Total Allowable Catch (TAC). We don’t keep regular track of the fish caught by recreational and cultural fishers. The only annual numbers are for commercial fishing, which has a limit called the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC).

What’s puzzling is that for many fish populations, the TACC is set way higher than what’s actually being caught, and it’s been like that for years without any change. To me, this means these fish aren’t really being managed at all. Of the 75 in Aotearoa there are 16 fish populations in the Gulf that stand out as ‘unmanaged’ due to their TACC being significantly higher than the actual catches.

I had high hopes for the new Fisheries Management Plan for the Gulf, thinking it might sort out these unmanaged populations. I tried to get some answers by writing to the minister, and when that didn’t work, I filed an Official Information Act request. The reply came from Simon Lawrence at Fisheries New Zealand, but it wasn’t what I hoped for. They’re only planning to review four out of the 16 unmanaged populations this year – Flatfish, Rig, Blue cod, and Red cod. That leaves Pipi, Horse mussel, Paddle crab, Anchovy, Sprat, Pilchard, Jack mackerel, Pōrae, Leatherjacket, Trumpeter, Longfin eel and Spiny dogfish unmanaged. Four of these fish are at the bottom of the food web and are critical for the Gulf ecosystem function. Horse mussels are endemic (found only in New Zealand) and aggregations dense enough to be called beds are now extinct in the Gulf, Longfin eel are also endemic and going extinct.

So here we are, with a fisheries plan that talks a big game about moving towards an ‘ecosystem-based fisheries management‘ approach, but we’re not even effectively managing individual fish populations.

Anchovy Engraulis australis kokowhaawhaa
 Jack mackerel Trachurus declivis Trachurus novaezelandia Trachurus murphyi Haature
New Zealand pilchard Sardinops sagax Mohimohi
New Zealand sprat Sprattus muelleri Kupae
Smooth leatherjacket velvet leatherjacket Meuschenia scaber Kokiri
Trumpeter Latris lineata Kohikohi
Porae Nemadactylus douglasii Morwong
Spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias snow fillets Makohuarau Pioke
Longfin eel Anguilla dieffenbachii Tuna
paddle crab  Ovalipes catharus Pāpaka
horse mussel Atrina zelandica Hururoa
pipi  Paphies australis

Map of dog prohibited area at Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve

Map of dog prohibited area at Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve

Like many locals I regularly ask people to not walk their dog at Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve. Sometimes dog walkers push back and say they are allowed to walk their dogs on the beach or around the top of the track. To make it clear here is the wording from the Auckland Council website:

“Dogs are prohibited at all times in Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve. This covers all park areas and associated beach and foreshore areas from the public walkway between 24 and 26 Vista Cresent to its boundary on West Tamaki and Tahaki Roads.”

Here is a map to visually explain the area.

To map the “beach and foreshore areas”, I projected the boundaries perpendicular to the starting points on land, down to the low tide line. Mean Low Water Springs (MLWS) has been visually estimated.

Submissions on the protections proposed by Revitalising the Gulf

I spent a few days going through the 7,550 submissions on protections proposed by Revitalising the Gulf. I’m estimating 77%-90% of the submissions were positive about the protection proposals. However huge numbers concerned about the continuation of bottom impact fishing outside the protected areas and cultural take inside them. So there is a general need for more protection. This level of public support for marine protection can be expected and can be seen in Polling from the Hauraki Gulf Form, Submissions on the recent Waiheke Marine Reserve Proposal and the Live Ocean Barometer 2023.

Most of the names were redacted from the submissions but the organisation names were left public. Here are the names of the organisations that made significant submissions.

2xs Charters / Balmain Boating Services
Alan Seasprite Charters
CRA 2 Rock Lobster Management Co
Dr Hook Charters
Fisheries Inshore NZ
Kina Industry Council
Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club
NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council
New Zealand Charter Boat Association
New Zealand Sport Fishing Council
Paua Industry Council
Princess Carol Charters
Provider Adventures Ltd
Sea Urchin NZ Ltd
Seahawk Fishing Charters
Slipper Island Residents Association
Snap Attack
Specialty & Emerging Fisheries Group
Tairua Adventures Ltd / Artisan Fishing Co
Te Ohu Kaimoana
Te Ra Charters
The New Zealand Angling & Casting Association
Whitianga / Coromandel Peninsula Commercial Fisherman’s Association
Aldermen Islands Marine Reserve Group
Friends of the Hauraki Gulf
Mama Fish
Sanford Limited
Forest & Bird
Revive Our Gulf
Auckland City Centre Residents Group
Auckland Conservation Board
Auckland Council
Auckland Sea Kayaks
Auckland Sea Shuttles
Coromandel Marine Farmers Association
Devonport Yacht Club
Environmental Defence Society
Foundation North
Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve Trust
Goat Island Dive and Snorkel
Good Fishing
Hahei Residents and Ratepayers Association
Leigh Penguin Project
Live Ocean Foundation
Meadowbank School Marine team
Motuora Restoration Society
Mountains to Sea Conservation Trust
New Zealand Conservation Authority
New Zealand Geographic
New Zealand Marine Sciences Society
Ngāti Hei
Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust
Ocean Voyages Inc
Pakiri Community Landcare Group
Pest Free Kaipātiki
Ports of Auckland Limited
Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc
Sir Peter Blake MERC
Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi
Te Whanau o Pākiri
The Friends of Te Whanganui‐A‐Hei Marine Reserve Trust
The Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga
The Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust
The Hauturu Supporters Trust
Tāmaki Estuary Protection Society
Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society Inc
Waiheke Marine Project
Waikato Regional Council
Wakatere Boating Club
Yachting New Zealand
Most of these submitters were upset about continued bottom impact fishing in the Gulf. Most of the Charter fishers all sent in the same submission. These submitters indicated support for marine protection but did not express that much support for the proposed measures: Most of these submitters wanted more protection than what was proposed and also wanted bottom impact fishing banned.

I have not published the names of many organisations who used the LegaSea form as those submissions contained dramatically less information than those from the above organisations. They were mostly small owner operator companies who are also keen fishers. The big Purse Sein operator Pelco NZ Ltd and Te Ahu wai o Tangaroa sustainable ecological aquaculture did make significant submissions but they did not speak to the protection proposal.

In response to the submissions the Department of Conservation has reduced the amount of protection. Submissions are now open on the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill.

P.S. These bottom impact fishing effort maps were made public by Fisheries Inshore NZ and are useful in considering the proposed ‘trawl corridoors’.

Submissions on the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Management Plan

Over 10,000 submissions on the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Management Plan are likely to be the largest data set of opinions on fisheries management in Aotearoa and definitely the largest in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

This copy is displayed when asking for public submissions:

Submissions are public information
Note that all, part, or a summary of your submission may be published on this website. Most often this happens when we issue a document that reviews the submissions received.

People can also ask for copies of submissions under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). The OIA says we must make the content of submissions available unless we have good reason for withholding it. Those reasons are detailed in sections 6 and 9 of the OIA.

If you think there are grounds to withhold specific information from publication, make this clear in your submission or contact us. Reasons may include that it discloses commercially sensitive or personal information. However, any decision MPI makes to withhold details can be reviewed by the Ombudsman, who may direct us to release it.

I’m disappointed that Fisheries New Zealand has not released all the submissions citing section 18(f) of the OIA—that the information requested cannot be made available without substantial collation or research.

I’m going to read over the submissions provided (which are substantial) before asking for more detail.

My request

FNZ response

Submissions Part 1

Submissions Part 2

Untangling the conservation and ethical dilemmas of big game fishing

Marlin hooked, fish feel pain

This summer many people asked me about a front page article on the New Zealand Herald about a large black marlin that was killed off the coast of Northland. They wanted to know what I thought about it because they knew I would disapprove. The article did not include other views on the anglers “monumental effort” which took 10 hours. People posted negative reactions to the article on Facebook calling it animal torture but there was a shortage of facts about conservation and moral concerns.

Is marlin fishing sustainable?

In Aotearoa New Zealand the fishery of marlin is 100% recreational since 1988. Billfish caught overseas should not be bought to eat because bycatch from this fishery is going extinct (whales & dolphins, sharks, seabirds and turtles). Our commercial catch of billfish is not targeted due to a Memorandum of Understanding Between Commercial & Recreational Fishing Interests October 1996. However there is a targeted commercial Swordfish fishery. Commercial landings have fallen dramatically over the last 10 years indicating a change in fish population, fishing methods or reporting, the former is most likely and concerning. The 126 tonnes of landed in the most recent year represents more than 1,000 fish, more than the number of animals reported in the recreational tag and release programme. Other billfish like marlin are released whether the animal is alive or dead upon capture. Cameras on all commercial surface longline fishing boats would tell us how many of these animals are being released (alive or dead).

Commercial landings of swordfish in the Aotearoa / New Zealand EEZ

The population trend and conservation status of each species is assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is how they categorise the threat of extinction for all species on our planet.

How the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)categorise the threat of extinction for all species on our planet

Here is how our billfish populations are doing in 2023 with recent catch data from the tagging program.

Black marlin population trend
Striped marlin population trend
Swordfish population trend
Blue marlin population trend
Shortbill spearfish population trend
Note that catch from the 2019-2020 was impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic so I have used the previous years which is more indicative of average catch.

Most of the recreationally caught animals are striped marlin, although they are categorised as Least Concern, the population in the Southwest Pacific is overfished with an estimated decline of 25% between 2001 to 2016.

Aotearoa New Zealand participates in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to manage broadbill populations. This 26 member commission is slowly making progress towards sustaining the world’s biggest tuna fishery, but failing to manage bycatch including billfish. The commission meets just once a year to make decisions via consensus. Aotearoa New Zealand is responsible for a very small percentage of the fishery. We have the moral high ground and are well positioned to argue for changes to stop these species from going extinct.

While commercial billfish bycatch in Aotearoa New Zealand is unknown, recreational fishers both target and land billfish. Because our fisheries are recreational, reporting on how many billfish are caught is voluntary. The latest report on the tagging programme notes an increase in the number of boats and a probable increase in unreported catch. This needs to change and more information would help us with our questions about the conservation status of these species. Climate change will push billfish populations towards the poles, increasing catches in Aotearoa New Zealand and masking our ability to detect population decline here.

The sports fishing industry awards and celebrates the capture of the largest fish. Large old fish produce more eggs and sperm than younger fish. Female billfish are larger than males. This means the most productive members of the population are landed for records, trophies and prizes. A large blue marlin at a weigh-in station does not represent a gain of 500kgs of freezer meat, but a loss of millions of eggs which could have helped rebuild the population. The situation is just as important for our striped marlin which have lost 94% of their spawning biomass since 1960’s.

Marlin batch spawn in tropical waters.
Marlin batch spawn in tropical waters.

As our culture evolves fishing is becoming less about machismo and more about connecting with the environment. Recreational fishing industry leaders could do more to discourage fishing techniques that target species that are going extinct. They also need to find ways to land less big fish. It won’t be easy for them, change may take a generation. Is catch and release the solution?

Is catch and release helping conserve billfish in Aotearoa New Zealand?

About 800 of our billfish are caught, tagged and released every year. The tagging programme is voluntary for recreational and commercial fishers. On average only three of these are recaptured per year. The other 797 plastic tags (which cost $5 each) end up in the ocean. Some tags fall out, some sink to the bottom of the ocean with the exhausted fish.

Many billfish are released, all of them injured. The fish are vulnerable to shock, disease and predation.

Marlin released with or without tags are vulnerable to shock, disease and predation.
Marlin released with or without tags are vulnerable to shock, disease and predation.

Overseas studies have found survival is not great with one in seven released fish dying. Fishers gamble with the lives of these animals every time they put a hook in the water. The ‘catch and release’ practice makes a significant contribution to the sustainability of our share of the fishery – if its stopping those fish from being landed and killed. However it’s unquestionable that the fish would be better off without being caught at all.

The small number of recaptures have shown where our fish travel, but much more information could be gained by using satellite tags. Genetic sampling techniques are better conservation tools and have existed for more than five years.

With so little conservation value in the tagging programme, is it worth it?

Is catch and release humane?

Sportfishing is practiced by humans who primarily hunt for fun rather than food. It’s a blood sport where wild animals are stressed and wounded for the pleasure of the hunter. In 2003 scientists found that fish have the biology to perceive pain and demonstrate behaviours associated with pain. The science was controversial for more than a decade, but now seems settled and researchers have now moved on to what kind of painkillers to give fish in laboratory experiments.

Marlin hooked, fish feel pain
Marlin feel pain.

Billfish respond to a hook in the mouth, throat or guts by trying to move away from the source of the pain. Fishers call this the ‘fight’. The amount of fight a fish will put up to reduce its suffering is extended by international game fishing rules. These rules are endorsed with additions from Legasea / The New Zealand Sports Fishing Council. They encourage fishers to try and land game fish on lighter line classes. This is thought to give fish a “sporting chance” as heavier fish can more easily break lighter lines. This makes the fights (which the fisher instigates for their own enjoyment) longer, it’s not uncommon for fights to last hours. This is done at the expense of the fish. Longer fights prolong the suffering of billfish and increase the chances of post release mortality due to physiological stress.

The New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) opposes big game fishing for sport due to the prolonged pain, injury and distress on the fish involved. SPCA advocates for a ban on the use of “light tackle” to catch big game fish.

The New Zealand Animal Welfare Act 1999 recognises fish as sentient animals. The activity recklessly ill-treats animals (an offence under section 28 A) it also contravenes other sections of the act (30A1-3). There is a NAWAC guideline on how to deal with practices which are inconsistent with the spirit of the Animal Welfare Act. The guideline asks ‘Is the suffering necessary’? It is not necessary and undeniably inhumane.

There is enough conservation and moral evidence to take the precautionary approach and stop the sport today, but I think it should be phased out, like big game hunting overseas.

Big game fishing is being compared to (less socially unacceptable) big game hunting

What should we do?

Aotearoa New Zealand should show leadership by pushing for global population estimates using genetic tools. We need to do a better job of arguing for changes to international fisheries methods and quota. We can also show more leadership by mandating the reporting of caught billfish (both landed and released, commercial and recreational) and developing a Code of Welfare for sports fishing which will identify standards to prevent pain and distress.

Feedback on the Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) to transform the wild-caught fishing industry for a resilient and productive future

We are disappointed the ITP is all carrot and no stick. There are lots of actions in the plan that will reduce fishing impacts and restore damage done by fishing,  however they are already underway. Companies already do sea ranching in Aotearoa (first documented trails in 1990), research institutions, eNGOs, communities and iwi are already working on seagrass, shellfish and kelp restoration. Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ) has not provided any plans to restore historic damage done by the fishing industry. FNZ is failing to develop the regulations needed to push the industry to innovate for a healthier ocean. The plan adds little environmental value, embeds significant environmental harm and should not be adopted.

Ban mobile bottom impact trawling and protected species bycatch

Mobile bottom impact fishing is inconsistent with ecosystem based management because of the scale of damage it does to benthic ecosystems. Recent polls by the Hauraki Gulf Forum and Greenpeace show that the bottom trawling industry has lost its social licence to operate. Our government has a responsibility to lay down some serious challenges to transition the industry, we can’t find any in the ITP. FNZ has not provided any evidence that the proposed investment will reduce impacts on biogenic habitats. It’s irresponsible of FNZ to not lead the industry to transition to lower impact methods. The ITP is short sighted and the industry needs a long term vision. We fully support recommendations on an end date for mobile bottom impact fishing.

Bottom impact fishing prevents the ocean from sinking carbon

It’s good to hear FNZ talk about using public money to actively restore damage caused by the fishing industry, but it’s hypocritical to allow the industry to continue damaging habitats at the same time. The transition to lower impact gear and fishing methods needs to be mandatory. For example hook-shielding devices supplied for free to the Surface Long-lining Fleet by the Department of Conservation have not been adopted as best practice by the industry. 100% hook-shield use could save thousands of endangered seabirds caught every year as bycatch.

Action 1: Create an end date for mobile bottom impact fishing.

Action 2: Create an end date for catching protected species.

Systemic failure

The ITP only uses the word sustainability to refer to the industry and the stocks that support it. The damage that the industry does to ecosystems and protected species is not sustainable. FNZ need to start practicing ecosystem based management to stop the loss of biogenic habitat, the spread of kina barrens and the extinction of our seabirds. This is explained well by Professor Simon Thrush, “[The ITP is] focussed on ‘sustainability’ in terms of future fishing industry profitability and productivity, rather than the ‘sustainability’ of the marine environment“.

The export revenue from Aotearoa New Zealand’s fruit and nut industry is twice that of the of the fishing industry with much less environmental harm. The Aotearoa Horticulture Action Plan wants to grow the wider horticulture industry from 7b to 35b by 2035. This is a much better investment for the New Zealand public. The optimistic economic argument laid out in The case for a new inshore fishing fleet in New Zealand 2022 will only have a regional impact. The business case will not be sustainable, as (by its own admission) it will not produce boats that are competitively priced. The New Zealand public is willing to fund Crown Research agencies to develop low impact fishing methods and technology for the industry. This is quite different to subsidising the purchase of new boats. In asking the government for subsidies the fishing industry is showing its not financially sustainable. The ITP is evidence a review of the economic performance of the Quota Management System(QMS) is overdue.

The industry is too focused on profits for quota owners, not local jobs. New Zealanders want a commercial inshore fishery that is low impact, high value and artisanal. The boats should be regularly upgraded but kept small to support communities. It’s also better for local economies and communities if operators own their means of production (quota and boats). Quota owners who are not investing in their fleet and just sitting on quota (like it’s a rental that doesn’t need upkeep) are not good for the environment, the economy or the wellbeing of society.

Our international partners will ask “why is New Zealand subsidising its ‘sustainable’ fishing industry”

The public will ask “why haven’t our quota owners (who we give fish for free) been investing in the inshore fleet?”

Action 3: Commission a financial review of fishing quota and Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) allocation to find out why profits are not being invested into the fleet.

Fish population biomass

We disagree with this statement in the ITP. “It is generally acknowledged that the volume of wild fish caught in Aotearoa New Zealand is unlikely to significantly increase, so we need to innovate to grow value” – Hon Rachel Brooking. The authors grasp at every straw except the ones that involve limiting commercial fishing.

1) It is logical to close certain areas to fishing as this would promote the growth of large animals which make a disproportionate contribution to fish populations. For example it takes thirty six 30cm snapper to make the same amount of eggs as one 70cm snapper. The creation of brood stock areas could dramatically increase fishery yield.

2) Many fish populations are being managed over the soft limit and too close to the hard limit. This shows the existing fleet is over capitalised. Lowering the TACC (Total Allowable Commercial Catch) to increase fish population biomass would reduce the effort required to catch the TACC, therefore reducing carbon emissions. MPAs can also increase CPUE (Catch Per Unit Effort) thereby reducing carbon emissions.

3) Increasing fish population abundance will help restore biological pump function and sequester more carbon.

Action 4: Trial the creation of brood stock areas to increase fishery yield.

Action 5: Lower the TACC to reduce carbon emissions and sequester more carbon.

Artificial upwelling technology

We were shocked to see FNZ entertain using artificial upwelling technology here, this is a potentially devastating technology that could have terrible fisheries outcomes. The process might not be stoppable, even after you remove all the plastic pipes from the ocean. We hope that any other technologies FNZ are entertaining are a lot less dangerous.


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The enchanted gardens of North Eastern New Zealand

Photo Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NZG-19071116-0009-03

I was horrified by this photo I found in the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection. It was taken 116 years ago in 1907. The caption reads ‘beautiful but profitless’ and describes a haul of corals and sponges undertaken by a research trawler. One large Black coral is remarkably intact, a tragic loss. The caption describes the scene “A haul as this—which in trawling parlance is “muck”—though useless is a glorious sight. This one in particular was gorgeous. The fish were a brilliant rose-pink, and all the hues of the rainbow were to be found in the strange dwarf trees, and other growths which came up in the net.”

The photo was from an article published in New Zealand Graphic which can be found in Papers Past, a second part to the article was published the following week.

The story is written about a single trip which started in Auckland on the 17th of October, the end is not mentioned in the article but based on the fisheries scientist’s report (from 1907 on PapersPast, there is also a 1901 report in the same National Library archive ) they went to the North Cape and back, making 23 trawls in 11 to 55 fathoms (20-100 meters). There are notes on all 23 trawls, the photo is likely from one of these:

Station 177: The net was shot again at 9.55 a.m., 6 miles N.W. £ W. of Channel Island, depth 25 fathoms, bottom mud and sand. As soundings indicated rough bottom, the net was only towed an hour and hauled up in 27 fathoms, bottom coral and shell. The result of this haul, poor both as regards the quantity and variety of fish.

Station 178: From last station steamed 5 miles S. x E., and shot the net at 12noon, 4miles S.S.E. from Little Barrier, depth 28 fathoms, bottom mud and sand. Hauled up 4J miles W. \S. of the Little Barrier in 28 fathoms, bottom coral and shell. This was also a short haul, and the results were as poor as the previous one.

Station 183: Left Russell at 6 a.m. for Great Exhibition Bay, near the North Cape. Arrived there and shot the net at 3 p.m. in 32 fathoms, the soundings made showing sand and shell; but the net had only been towed ten minutes when it fouled, and. when hauled up it was found that the foot-rope was cut through, showing plainly that it had come in contact with rocky bottom.

Station 191: After hauling up from station 190 several soundings were taken, and showed a risky bottom, so we steamed south 17 miles, and shot the net at 4.30 p.m. off Takau Bay in 35 fathoms, bottom fine sand. Towed S.E. 2 miles, and hauled up from the same depth and character of bottom as we shot in. This was a very poor haul as regards fish-taking : the net came up with large quantities of marine vegetation. After hauling up we steamed into Russell, and anchored for the night.

They lost a £lOO net on “foul ground” and they were constantly mending nets. The author describes the seafloor based on the bycatch “places must be like a fairy grove, or one of those enchanted gardens in the Arabian Nights”. He goes on to describe a particular haul from the Bay of Islands in detail:

“There were several dwarf trees about three or four feet high, which realised one’s idea of the sort of thing that grew in the garden of the Princess Bulbul. They had evidently been torn from the solid rock. The branches were covered with feathery leaves of a most delicate form, coloured cream-brown, and attached to them were all manner of things just like a Christmas-tree. From a short distance off, it was difficult to say that it was not hung with all manner of vivid-hued fruits—bananas, grapes, tomatoes, and what not—anu round the branches at intervals were twined starfish in knots resembling what sailors call “Turk’s Heads.” They were not spiked like ordinary star-fish, but smooth and bright as a Japanese lacquered box. Some were cream with maroon stripes, others a rich golden yellow, others crimson, and on no two was the marking the same. From one branch depended a cluster of things half prawn, half sea-horse, and from different points swung shark’s eggs—a semi-transparent lyre-shaped bag of the same colour and quality as celluloid (from which it was difficult to distinguish it), some four inches in attached to the shrub by cartilaginous tendrils, whose spirals seemed intended by wonderful Mother Nature to catch in such growths and find a safe hatching place. One branch minus leaves, if one could so term the feathery growth, looked exactly like a frond of coral, the colour a rich crimson-lake, with the tips of the countless excrescences lighter in tint. On a closer examination the branch was found to be sheathed with a gelatinous substance, quite soft to the touch, which soon dried and lost its exquisite colour.

Some of the shells were very strange and interesting, particularly one that seemed to be very plentiful. It was an ordinary-looking spiral shell as big as a man’s hand, but round the base was ranged a number of smaller shells, forming a sort of base which would apparently keep the shell off the ground, like a house on piles. They were stuck on with some kind of cement, and in other specimens small stones or pebbles were used in a similar way.

Sponges, and fungoid growths of many colours and fantastic shapes—umbrellas, hats, bowls, etc.—were common, and some of them weighed half a hundredweight and more. Star fish, squids, molluscae, medusae, seaweed and yards of gelatinous transparent stuff as thick as leather and marked with red spots were brought up at nearly every haul. They would no doubt be greatly prised by the naturalist, but are shovelled over without the slightest compunction by the business-like fisherman.”

By 1907 there were many trawlers operating around the country, many purchased with government subsidies. There had been much public outcry about the method and one area in the Gulf protected (temporarily) but only after it had been trawled. In 2023 commercial bottom trawlers and Danish seiners will repeatedly deploy their gear thousands of times within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park alone.

The image is a stark reminder of what’s been directly lost to mobile bottom impact fishing. The industry like to say they only trawl on ‘sand or mud’ but we know that our mud and sand once supported more complex habitats. Examples of biogenic habitats that associate with soft sediments include horse mussel beds, scallop beds, dog cockle beds, green-lipped mussel beds, seagrass, sponge gardens, tubeworm mounds and rhodolith beds. Our poorly protected corals and other epibenthic fauna like sea squirts attach to hard structures created by these habitats, enriching and expanding these ‘enchanted gardens’. All of these habitats are easily destroyed by mobile bottom impact fishing.

To this day NIWA carry on this tradition of ‘scientific’ bottom trawling for the government, even in areas protected from bottom trawling. Some tows are stoped due to ‘foul ground’. When will we stop all mobile bottom impact fishing and begin to restore our ‘enchanted gardens’?