By Peter van Eekelen
The Lyttelton Port Company has refused to comment on the effect on the ocean floor when tonnes upon tonnes of fine silts are dropped into the immediate inshore fishing area.
The headline might sound like a Tarantino movie in reverse, and the outcome is even worse for recreational fishers in the Canterbury region.
The Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) dredge has been dumping its load of silt less than three kilometres offshore for the last couple of months from dawn till dusk.
The following is a bit of background from the LPC website: To ensure the main navigation channel and the areas ships berth and manoeuvre, LPC undertakes an annual programme of maintenance dredging. This dredging removes the naturally accumulating sediment within the channel. Dredging is primarily undertaken by a trailer suction hopper dredge, although an excavator on a barge can be used for close-in work by the wharves.
The dredged material is deposited at either the offshore disposal ground, located approximately 2km east of Godley Head, or the Gollans Bay disposal ground within the harbour.
Water quality at the offshore disposal ground is continuously monitored during the dredging by purpose-built monitoring buoys. Regular ecological monitoring is also undertaken at a range of selected sites within the harbour. The information from this monitoring is reported annually to ECan.
LPC also recently installed a surf cam at Taylors Mistake as part of an agreement with the Surf Break Protection Society. Detailed studies undertaken by LPC indicated the maintenance disposal ground will not alter the surf break. The webcam will monitor the characteristics of the surf break over time to confirm the outcomes of these studies.
“Environmental monitoring, including turbidity monitoring of the water adjacent to the disposal ground, will be undertaken during the entire campaign to ensure that LPC’s Resource Consent requirements are complied with,” a representative from LPC says.
This is the first maintenance dredge campaign where the dredged material will be placed at the new offshore maintenance disposal ground beyond Godley Head.
This maintenance dredging work is part of a 10-year maintenance dredging contract with Dutch Dredging and four other New Zealand ports.
What the Lyttelton Port Company does not say is what the effect is on the ocean floor when tonnes upon tonnes of fine silts are dropped into the immediate inshore fishing area. The fine silts disperse over a wide area following the natural drift, carpeting everything on the sea floor in an enveloping blanket of silt and killing everything underneath.
Canterbury fishers are already under significant pressure from Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ) with the two blue cod limit in the inshore fishing area. The Lyttelton Harbour Mataitai area further restricts fishing opportunities with significantly reduced bag limits for finfish.
There is little left for the Canterbury recreational fisher to target with inshore trawling taking out anything that is left on the desert plains of Pegasus Bay. It is also interesting to note that since the LPC started with the main dredging a couple of years ago to deepen the harbour and their current maintenance dredging plan, commercial fishers have been reporting back to FNZ a significant reduction of the normal inshore species such as red cod and gurnard.
When the question is raised by recreational fishers regarding water turbidity and its effect on fishing, FNZ shrug their shoulders and say, “Nothing to do with us.” LPC quite rightly say, “We have got our consent for dumping from ECAN, nothing to do with us.”
The commercial fishers just keep trawling closer and closer inshore as they continue to take out the last fish left in the area, with one boat recently beached running its lines too close to shore.
But who gets to pay the price? Canterbury recreational fishers are under the pump. Not only does FNZ actively restrict any real opportunity to put food on the table, but they also promote the ongoing pillage of the inshore fishing areas by commercial interests for ‘the economic wellbeing of New Zealand’. What about the people who live here? Do we count for anything? What do we need to do just to be treated fairly?
It’s time that we stood up and said, “Enough is enough.”
Some of the armchair warriors in other parts of the country may think this is just a Canterbury problem, but it’s not.
This is the ongoing stake that is being driven into the heart of recreational fishing across the country. What has happened in Canterbury with the massive 93% reduction in blue cod bag limits can happen in your backyard. What would you do if FNZ turned around and said, “Sorry guys, you have just been dropped to a bag limit of two snapper but commercial interests can just keep fishing with no restriction and, by the way, since you can’t fish these areas anymore we will just give the unallocated TACC to the commercial guys and it is off the table… forever.”
This is our nightmare.
Peter van Eekelen Past President Pegasus Bay Gamefishing Club Zone 7 Representative, TAG Blue Cod Strategy