The 100km stretch of banned coastline - from the Kaikoura Marine Reserve north to Cape Campbell/MPI

After industry spent a week holding its breath on the earthquake damage to the Kaikoura fisheries, MPI’s harvesting ban and $2 million science package provides a pathway for business to return to normal.   “There will be an initial one month closure of the crayfish fishery and three months for all remaining shellfish and seaweed species,” Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy announced on Monday.

Scientists and stakeholders now have time to better understand the affects to the fisheries from uplifted seafloor and the displacement of an unknown quantity of marine life.

The Paua and NZ Rock Lobster Industry Councils have both welcomed the emergency closure.

Rock lobsters are likely to have escaped the brunt of the quake, being mobile enough to find their way back below the low tide mark.

The Canterbury Marlborough Rock Lobster Industry Association (CRAMAC 5) have an extensive inventory of the fisheries area and is confident that after completing a potting survey there will be enough information to reopen to fishery.

November through to January is a peak fishing period in CRA 5, and if the emergency closure is lifted prior to Christmas there should be sufficient time during the remainder of the season to catch the 70 tonnes of ACE they have been holding back for the lucrative Chinese New Year market.

Unfortunately the initial estimates on the death of paua along the 100km stretch of coastline from the Kaikoura Marine Reserve to Cape Campbell is far less positive.

“The number of paua left stranded are believed to be in the hundreds of thousands,” Paua Industry chairman Storm Stanley said.

“It is still unknown the amount of harm caused to the special habitat where paua larvae and juveniles live.”

But, there will be a reasonable numbers of adult paua surviving further offshore and in parts of the intertidal zone.

Thus, the job now is to assess what is left and how best to rehabilitate the fishery.

The formulation of this plan has already begun, with MPI, Iwi, recreational and commercial fishermen working together.

The co-operation between groups often on opposite sides of the fence should be commended.

It should also provide a template for future collaborations.

The next challenge will be grasping the extent of work needed to get boats back in the water.

Vessels in Kaikoura harbour were initially left high and dry and may need to be relocated unless there is dredging to the harbour to re-open the channel.

Remedial work to launching sites along the coastline is already well underway.

With so much at stake, the response from Government and MPI to this disaster has been first rate.

Fishing is a major contributor to the Marlborough and Kaikoura economies and the response from Government reflects that.

The wage subsidy package offered to businesses with less than 20 staff has also been extended to everyone who “can provide evidence of a sudden, large and sustained drop in revenue due to earthquake-related impacts.”

This should include all fishing operations in the region and will allow businesses of varying sizes to support staff as time is spent gathering valuable information on the fisheries.