New Mātaitai Bylaws to Protect and Enhance Harbour Fishstocks

Ngāti Wheke Chair Manaia Rehu

The Minister of Fisheries has approved new bylaws that will limit fishing within the Whakaraupō Mātaitai.

The bylaws are the result of a proposal put together by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, with support from local recreational fishers, science advisors and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke Chair Manaia Rehu says the decision is crucial to safeguard the local fisheries.

“These new rules will help to rejuvenate mahinga kai and ensure our mātaitai is protected and enhanced not just for us now, but for future generations of Ngāi Tahu whānui and the wider Lyttelton Harbour community.”

The bylaws are reinforced by surveys conducted by Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai, a University of Otago research and monitoring support team for Customary Protection Area managers.

The surveys found only 10 per cent of pāua in the Whakaraupō Mātaitai were at or above the minimum legal size for recreational fishing. It also found other mahinga kai species were present in low densities, and habitat-forming kelps in the upper harbour have been severely depleted.

Lead Mātaitai Tangata Tiaki Henry Couch says the proposal is a proactive step.

“This is about preventing any further reduction in important mahinga kai stocks and the habitats they need to thrive. Ultimately, we want to rebuild these populations to the point where they are once again abundant.

“Current recreational bag limits are too high and are inconsistent with the underlying philosophy of a mahinga mātaitai, which is focused on ‘catching a feed’. These catch limits mean the mātaitai will be fished more sustainably.”

The new bag limits apply to shellfish stocks in the Whakaraupō Mātaitai, including pāua, pipi, mussels, crabs, oysters, and cockles, as well as several finfish species, including flounder, blue cod, red cod, butterfish, moki and conger eel.

In addition to the new bag limits, the taking of some species including seaweed, skates, and rays, from within the Whakaraupō Mātaitai is prohibited as well as the harvesting of tuaki (cockles) at Rec Bay at Purau and at Walkers Beach at Ōtamahua (Quail Island).

Mr Rehu believes the bylaws will be an important measure in rejuvenating the health of Whakaraupō.

“We want to see our species replenished so that we and future generations can have the same health in our mahinga kai and our reserves that were enjoyed by our tūpuna.”

The new bylaws took effect on the 24th of April.

Community consultation is also set to begin on revised bylaws for the Rāpaki Mātaitai.

Whakaraupō Mātaitai bylaws

ShellfishBag limitFinfishBag limit
Pāua5Pātiki (flounder)20
Tuaki (cockle)30Rāwaru (blue cod)2
Pipi30Hoka (red cod)5
Kutai (mussels)30Marari (butterfish)10
Pāpaka (crabs)10Moki10
Tio (oysters)10Kōiro (conger eel)2
Other shellfishHarvesting prohibitionWhairepo (skate/ray)Harvesting prohibition
Other finfish combined10
SeaweedsBylaw detailsArea closuresBylaw details
All seaweed (except karengo, undaria)
Note beachcast seaweed is outside of the mātaitai area.
Harvesting prohibitionWalkers Beach (Otamahua/ Quail Island)Tuaki harvesting prohibited
Rec Bay (Purau)Tuaki harvesting prohibited
Map – Whakaraupō Mātaitai and Rāpaki Mātaitai