Evaluation of the Customary Fisheries Management of Shellfish in the Canterbury Region
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
During the last twenty years there has been a growing recognition of the need to protect shellfish populations all over the world. In New Zealand, customary management tools such as rehab (temporary closures) and mātaitai reserves provide an important management strategy, allowing shellfish populations to be managed and protected in coastal waters. This thesis examined the cultural management of shellfish in three Māori reserves in the Canterbury region, at Rāpaki, Port Levy and Kaikōura. The study measured the population characteristics of three key shellfish species that are important to Māori within the reserves and compared them with similar non-reserve sites. The shellfish populations were assessed using both scientific methods and cultural evaluations using traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The scientific methods involved assessments of the abundance; size structure and condition index of pipis (Paphies australis), cockles (Austrovenus stutchburyi) and cats eyes (Turbo smaragdus). Semi-structured interviews were used to gather indigenous knowledge from kaumatua and kaitiaki on the abundance of shellfish and the state of their customary fisheries. The findings from the scientific research indicated that the customary reserves had higher shellfish abundance, larger individuals and higher abundance of harvestable size shellfish. The result of the cultural assessments suggested that there are enough shellfish in the three reserves to satisfy the customary needs of the communities. The kaitiaki acknowledged that the abundance and sizes of shellfish had been greater and larger in the past compared to the present. They have observed an increase in both size and abundance of shellfish since the customary reserves have been put in place. This study showed that scientific monitoring can provide important information about the structure and distribution of shellfish and that this is critical for sustainable management. The research findings indicated that scientific monitoring and TEK information can compliment each other for improved customary fishery management. The thesis research concluded that differences in shellfish populations between the reserves and non-reserve sites may be due, not only to the customary management, but a variety of complex factors that will require further monitoring. This research, however, provided baseline data about shellfish populations which can be used to monitor future changes. From a cultural perspective the customary management is conserving shellfish populations and therefore is successful at fulfilling the customary needs of the three Māori communities.