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DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION INHERITS TAWHARANUI GEM

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Date Posted: 18 Oct 2010 | 4 Comments

By Roger Grace

The highly successful Tawharanui Marine Park is to become a Marine Reserve sometime this summer.  Hopefully the transition will be very smooth and the fish and crayfish will not notice a thing.  After the change becomes official, people will see new notices and the presence of DOC rangers from time to time.

Tawharanui Marine Park has been a no-fishing zone under special Fisheries Regulations since 1981.  The change to a Marine Reserve under the Marine Reserves Act 1971 will be little more than an administrative change since effectively the rules on the ground will be the same.  DOC is inheriting a ready-made marine reserve, since the “hard yards” of recolonisation has already occurred over nearly 30 years of protection.

DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION INHERITS TAWHARANUI GEM
There is a small change to the boundary of the Marine Reserve however, with the outer boundary being marked by a straight line instead of a distance offshore as at present.  It is hoped this will make it easier for fishers to determine if they are inside or outside the boundary. 

The change to a Marine Reserve will mean a lot more work for DOC staff at the Warkworth Area Office who will be responsible for looking after the new Tawharanui Marine Reserve as well as the existing marine reserve at Goat Island, Leigh.

The no-take rules have provided a safe haven for fish and crayfish, which have increased dramatically over the years.  Large snapper follow snorkellers over the shallow kelp-covered rocks at Phoenix Reef at Anchor Bay, and a quick duck-dive will reveal crayfish under rocky ledges.

The contrast between the sanctuary in the Park and the fished coastline outside is amazing.  Not only have fish and crayfish increased to numbers way beyond that on fished coasts, but the kelp forest has recovered in the Park. 

To the west of the protected zone, from Pukenihinihi Point along the rocky coast toward Omaha, the shallow reefs mostly are devoid of large seaweeds, the rocky bottom instead being covered in encrusting coralline algae with frequent patches of sea urchins or kina.  This is because there are not enough fish and crayfish to keep the kina numbers under control and they have eaten all the kelp.

In contrast, inside the protected zone there are lots of fish, snapper and crayfish, which have reduced the kina to more natural numbers which allow the kelp to thrive.  Under the
kelp lives a variety of small encrusting sponges and seasquirts, restoring the natural biodiversity lost from most unprotected reefs.

The accompanying graph shows how crayfish numbers have grown, and continue to grow, inside the protected area, in contrast to the fished area outside where crayfish are only rarely seen.  The protected area now has a staggering 1000 crayfish per hectare, with specimens up to 3 kilogrammes or so.  They provide a valuable breeding stock to help replenish depleted stocks on the fished coast.

The underwater photos show dense shallow kelp at Phoenix Reef where protection has led to habitat recovery.  In contrast, the fished area west of the protected zone has extensive kina barrens of low ecological value.

Tawharanui can be a good alternative to Goat Island which on a summers day can be extremely crowded, even in the water.  When there is no swell try snorkeling at the new Tawharanui Marine Reserve.  You may have the reefs almost to yourself.

Roger Grace
11 October 2010

Posted in: Conservation Trust Media Releases

Comments about this article

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This file has a .pdf extension Document Icon Tawharanui Marine Reserve Proposal Discussion Document

This report presents the Committee with an update on work relating to an existing resolution on the Tawharanui Marine Reserve proposal, to present the Committee with options for progressing the application and to seek endorsement for a preferred option. This report briefly discusses: the background to the existing Tawharanui Marine Park; the values of the Tawharanui Marine Park; the reasons for applying for marine reserve status; actions to date (including consultation with key stakeholders and the public); possible expansion of the area to be covered by the marine reserve (that is
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