Martin de Ruyter/Stuff
Signs mark the start of the Horoirangi Marine Reserve at The Glen. (File photo)
A new ranger has been appointed by the Department of Conservation to increase patrols of Nelson’s two marine reserves, with a camera also installed to monitor activity at one.
The measures have been taken to help deter and detect any illegal fishing in the Horoirangi Marine Reserve, between Glenduan and Cable Bay, and the Tonga Island Marine Reserve off Abel Tasman National Park.
In the last two years, the DOC Motueka team had investigated six illegal fishing incidents in the Horoirangi Marine Reserve. Warning letters were sent to those involved in four of the incidents and two cases were discontinued due to a lack of evidence.
DOC Motueka operations manager Chris Golding said the aim was to deter people from illegal activity in the first place rather than catch them at it.
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He said the camera surveying the Horoirangi Marine Reserve would increase DOC’s ability to identify offenders and gather evidence when illegal activity occurred.
“It’s been found that cameras at other marine reserves have proved a deterrent to illegal activity. Reports of suspected illegal fishing in Kāpiti Marine Reserve declined after a camera was installed in 2018, having peaked the year before.”
The Tonga Island Marine Reserve was established in 1993 and covers 1835 hectares along the Abel Tasman National Park coastline between Awaroa Head and the headland north of Bark Bay.
More recently in 2006 the Horoirangi Marine Reserve was established, covering 904 hectares along five kilometres of coast north-east of The Glen to Ataata Point, the southern headland of Cable Bay.
The new ranger started this week and would be based in the DOC Motueka office. The role would include increasing education about the marine reserves and overseeing scientific monitoring of them.
Golding said both reserves were “treasures of marine life” with all fish, animals, plants and the seabed protected.
“No taking of marine life is allowed in marine reserves and this enables the marine ecosystems to return to a more natural state and marine species within them to become more abundant.”
Anyone who breaks the rules in marine reserves can now face fines through infringement notices, an additional enforcement measure to DOC’s existing tools of warning letters and prosecution.
The infringement notice fine for fishing in a marine reserve is $600.
Infringement notices could also be issued for breaching other conservation rules; failing to observe whitebaiting regulations, taking dogs into national parks or taking or causing damage to protected species. Fines range from $200 to $800, depending on the offence.
Wilsons Abel Tasman chief executive Darryl Wilson said he supported the appointment of a marine reserves ranger.
“Deterrence is always appropriate so the fact someone is out there is of value.”
He said if people were seen fishing in the Tonga Island Marine Reserve, they were usually corrected by tourism operators passing through.
However, he said the “biggest bugbear” in marine reserves was breaches of the marine mammal viewing regulations.
It was frustrating for guides who explained to guests they had to keep 20 metres away from seals only to have others “plonk on the rocks and take cute little selfies with the seals”.
The Nelson marine reserve ranger is one of seven to be appointed this year with others based in Kāpiti-Wellington, Auckland, New Plymouth and Christchurch. A further seven will be recruited next year.
People can report sightings of people illegally fishing within marine reserves by calling the DOC Hotline on 0800 DOC HOT/0800 362 468.