Mātaitai – what is it and how does it affect Lyttelton Harbour?

With the introduction of new bylaws limiting fishing within Whakaraupō, this Q and A piece unpacks what that policy change means for the average shellfish gatherer, recreational angler, or seaweed collector.

For the ins and outs of what can and cannot be taken under this new bylaw, check out the table in this article.

What is a mātaitai?

A mātaitai is a way to recognise and provide for traditional fishing through local management. They allow customary and recreational fishing but usually don’t allow commercial fishing.

Who made up the Whakaraupō Mātaitai rules?

A committee of locals interested in recreational fishing that included representatives for communities all around the harbour. There are also science advisors involved.

What do the colours on the map represent?

Map – Whakaraupō Mātaitai and Rāpaki Mātaitai

Orange: The main orange area covering most of Whakaraupō is the area covered by the Whakaraupō mātaitai.

Yellow: The yellow-gridded area is the area where Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) is reclaiming/creating land so the mātaitai doesn’t exist there.

Green close-up images: The top left green image is a close up of the LPC reclamation area at Te Awaparahi Bay (the yellow area in the main image) and the middle left image is a close up of the Battery Point area of the LPC reclamation.

These close-up images were provided to assist fishers to know what is mātaitai (the orange shaded area is the mātaitai) and what is LPC reclamation.

Diamond Harbour wharf: The right close-up image is the Diamond Harbour wharf area to show fishers that the mātaitai does not include the wharf area.

The green is a close up image of the edge of the mātaitai, and the green is satellite images of the water.

Mātaitai boundaries: The mātaitai boundaries don’t go right up against the wharves because the unloading of commercial fishing vessels counts as ‘commercial fishing’ which isn’t allowed in mātaitai. It was done to allow commercial fishermen to unload their catch.

As well as limiting what people can take through the mātaitai rules, what else is being done to improve fish stocks?

Over fishing is only one of a possible number of causes contributing to reduction of stocks/ecology health.

Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke (Rāpaki) is working with local communities on a range of initiatives to improve the wellbeing of Whakaraupō for all recreational users.

Initiatives are aimed at matters such as water quality improvement, habitat improvement for marine species, and reseeding to speed up population growth of shellfish where conditions are right. Some of these measures are part of the Whakaraupō Catchment Management Plan.

Can I collect seaweed that is washed up (i.e. not attached by holdfast)?

The rules ban people from taking most seaweed in the water excluding Undaria (algae), which is introduced species, and Karengo, which is abundant.

A reason for banning the taking of most seaweed species is that they are generally not widespread and are an important food source for some fish species.

The ban only applies to attached seaweed. It does not affect washed up seaweed.

How can I find out about fishing rules elsewhere?

On the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website or by following MPI on Facebook.

What do I do if I see someone who may be breaking the rules?

If you see someone who may be breaking the Whakaraupō Mātaitai rules, please contact MPI:

  • 0800 4 POACHER (0800 47 62 24)
  • ncc@mpi.govt.nz. Discretely take a photo of their car registration (if possible) to pass on to MPI. This will help them follow-up with those who may have offended.

The Fisheries Officers employed by MPI are responsible for enforcement and if you have watched Coastwatch you will have a fair idea of how MPI Fisheries Officers work.

If you think they may not understand the rules, you may wish to point them out. For example, someone with a large bucket of small snails or catseyes may assume they aren’t protected, however once they understand the rules they will hopefully return them to the water.

Do not use physical force or stand over tactics to try and prevent illegal take. This may be dangerous and illegal.

What else can I do to help?

Consider becoming an Honorary Fisheries Officer to help ensure the rules are followed and our fishstocks are protected for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.