An influx of tuatua gatherers on beaches south of Dargaville may be threatening the survival of the iconic toheroa in the area.
The toheroa fishery was closed across the country in 1982 after a massive reduction in numbers. It is illegal to harvest, disturb or possess toheroa without a customary permit.
Ministry for Primary Industries staff and Honorary Fisheries Officers have been noticing mixed bags of tuatua and toheroa being gathered this year on west coast beaches south of Dargaville.
MPI Acting Northland District Compliance Manager Stephen Rudsdale says this is largely because tuatua beds are far more plentiful and accessible in the area than they have been for many years.
“Small toheroa and mature tuatua look very similar and they are sitting together in the same beds. People who are getting a feed of tuatua and picking up small toheroa by mistake.”
Mr Rudsdale says there are a couple of differences that people can use to tell the difference, and MPI have printed 5,000 factsheets to distribute around gatherers in the area.
Tuatua have a slightly glossy shell, compared with the dull shell of the toheroa.
Another simple test is to sit the shellfish on its base on the sand, with the sharp end standing up. A tuatua should stay standing, balanced on the flat base, while the toheroa, which has a lump on the base of the shell, should fall over.
“Our Honorary Fisheries Officers (HFOs) and staff will be out and about on the beach letting gatherers know about the issue and how they can tell the difference between tuatua and toheroa.
“It’s important people know the difference because there’s some hefty fines for taking toheroa. Staff and HFOs will be using some discretion, but will not tolerate people deliberately or repeatedly taking toheroa.”
Toheroa were a delicacy before the fishery crashed in the 1970s. They were and are only found on the west coast beaches of Northland, Horowhenua and on the Foveaux Strait beaches in Southland.
MPI encourages people to report any suspicious fishing activity to 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224). All calls are confidential.
For more information:
- call the MPI media team – 029 894 0328
- email firstname.lastname@example.org