The new rules will apply to everyone equally, including customary, recreational and commercial fishers, divers, those spearfishing, even if you’re catch and releasing.
View the full Environment Court approved map of the Motiti Protection Area.
The reef systems off the coast of Motiti Island support a large range of plants and animals including fish and shellfish. In 2018 the Environment Court released an interim decision (PDF 13.87MB) that found the outstanding attributes and values of these reef systems needed better protection.
On 24 April 2020, the Environment Court released its final decision (PDF 7.87MB) which directs Bay of Plenty Regional Council to implement new rules within its Regional Coastal Environment Plan to protect three reef systems near Motiti Island and complete scientific monitoring to inform future integrated marine management solutions.
The new rules will create three protection areas (called the Motiti Protection Areas) around Motiti Island where the taking of all plants and animals (including fish and shellfish) would be prohibited due to their significant marine biodiversity, landscape and cultural values. Those three areas comprise of Ōtaiti (Astrolabe Reef); including Te Papa (Brewis Shoal), Te Porotiti, and O karapu Reef, Motuhaku Island (Schooner Rocks) and Motunau Island (Plate Island).
Next steps - May 2021
We will continue to work with tangata whenua, kaitiaki and a number of groups in the community, including recreational, customary and commercial fishing groups to raise awareness of the new rules. A public education campaign is also underway to notify the public about the change.
We are collaborating with other government agencies, including the Ministry for Primary Industries and Department of Conservation, for the best outcomes. We can all agree that the marine environment is worth protecting for future generations and by following the new rules, everyone can do their bit to protect these reefs and their ecosystems too.
The Regional Council will be conducting monitoring at the Motiti Protection Areas to determine if the protections put in place by the court are achieving the desired biodiversity outcomes. Are the Marine Protection Areas working?
Once confirmed, the first step in monitoring these areas is to establish a baseline – how does the ecology of these reefs look today, before the reefs are protected. This data will then be used for years to come as a reference point against which to assess changes in biodiversity that occur following the prohibition of the removal of flora and fauna, and assess the success of these fishing closures.
Some of the specific questions that we will be asking with our monitoring will include: how many kina occur in an area, how much rocky reef area is covered by kelp forest, and how many crayfish are there on each reef? Combined, this data will tell us about the condition of these environments.
Continued monitoring using the same methods over time will allow us to measure changes that may occur because of the protections. For example, the changes in crayfish numbers or the biodiversity associated with kelp forests. Ultimately, this will tell us if the Motiti Protection Areas are protecting and enhancing biodiversity.
This type of monitoring involves observing the natural environment, measuring key components (in this case biodiversity) and conducting analyses to determine how things are changing over time. Tools marine scientists may use include scuba diving equipment, cameras, drones, and quadrats (set 1 m2 areas) to monitor selected areas and species, as indicators of the state of the entire study area.