November 18, 2016 The stranded cows were saved but it was tougher for marine creatures following this week’s massive 7.8 quake.   Startling images of uplifted seashore on the Kaikoura coast that stranded rich paua beds and nests of rock lobsters and covered a celebrated seal rookery were seen around the world.

Marlborough fisheries shaken up

The stranded cows were saved but it was tougher for marine creatures following this week’s massive 7.8 quake.

Startling images of uplifted seashore on the Kaikoura coast that stranded rich paua beds and nests of rock lobsters and covered a celebrated seal rookery were seen around the world.

While there were much bigger issues to be dealt with, not least rescuing people from isolated Kaikoura, the diving fraternity began returning as many stranded adult paua and crays to the sea as possible.

With so much coastline affected it could only ever be a token effort and the smaller paua out of sight under rocks had no chance of survival once they had been out of water for a day or so.

“We’re hoping to get as many as we can to the water but it’s an enormous stretch of coastline and an enormous amount of paua,” Paua Industry Council chief executive Storm Stanley said.

The scale of the earthquake’s impact is hard to grasp. The entire ecosystem along a 50-km intertidal zone has been ravaged.

The international news agency Reuters contacted Seafood NZ to enquire whether the earthquakes would impact on exports.

Despite the localised devastation, the answer is not to any significant degree.

The paua fishery is the sector most affected but, even so, the annual Kaikoura coast harvest is 90 tonnes, which represents only 10 percent of the total New Zealand harvest.

And the Kaikoura paua habitat is not uniformly disrupted, although it may be as much as 50 percent.

The Government has announced a relief package, largely aimed at tourism and agriculture, but the seafood sector fully expects to be included.

In the immediate aftermath, MPI staff responded quickly and locals are full of praise for their efforts.

The coastal fringe will regenerate in time – but not if it is smothered in millions of cubic metres of rock and mud.

The highway blockages are of an unprecedented size and will likely take several months to fully clear, according to the NZ Transport Agency.

The slips are unstable and four or five are of similar size to the massive rockfall that closed the Manawatu Gorge for an extended period in 2011.

What techniques will be employed to clear the slips and where the spoil will be deposited are still to be decided.

Prime Minister John Key says the coastal road has had a mountain pushed on to it and is “really stuffed”.

The quickest and cheapest option may be to simply bulldoze the slips into the sea but that would have profound effects on the fragile coastal environment.

That concern has been made known to Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and adds to the many challenges facing the Government and communities in the wake of this latest upheaval in the Earth’s crust.

- Tim Pankhurst