The recreational paua daily bag limit has been halved in Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson.

The reduction from 10 to five paua per person per day is aimed at ensuring the adjoining fisheries remain sustainable after the impacts of the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.

The accumulation limit – the amount that any person may have in their possession after more than one day’s collection – has also been halved, from 20 paua or 2.5kg of minced meat, to 10.

The Kaikoura earthquake was a unique event and there was a need to be cautious to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resource, Fisheries New Zealand’s director of fisheries management Stuart Anderson said.

“The change to harvest levels has been informed by the best available science and consultation with the local community, during which there was strong support for a reduction,” he said.

“The commercial and recreational catch changes help ensure that everyone plays their part in helping to maintain the sustainability of the fisheries.”

A shellfish and seaweed closure remains in place along the Kaikoura and southern Marlborough coast to allow this badly depleted area to recover.

Paua Industry Council fisheries scientist Dr Tom McCowan said the 7.8 intensity quake caused coastal uplift of up to five metres and a massive loss of habitat with high paua mortality.

He and other scientists, including Canterbury University, have done extensive work along the affected coastline in the three years since.

“Our research has included assessing the loss to the fishery, monitoring adult abundance, assessing juvenile recruitment and doing some reseeding,” McCowan said.

“We are seeing signs of a partial recovery, of an increase in abundance but it varies between sites.

“We do expect to see a recruitment pulse in 2019-20.”

But it is still too early to push for reopening of closed areas. The Minister has to be satisfied the fishery has recovered sufficiently and that is still uncertain.

A total of 62 tonnes of annual catch has been lost – 47 tonnes in PAU3 centred on Kaikoura and 15 tonnes in PAU7 to the north.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash reduced the Kaikoura commercial catch by 50 percent in response and in Marlborough the previous year’s 50 percent catch was augmented by a further 10 percent voluntary catch reduction by industry to mitigate any displaced catch effects caused by the closure there.

The Kaikoura experience does give pause to consider the generous recreational catch allowance that applies countrywide.

Ten paua provides a substantial amount of meat, enough for a large group.

Surely it is time to review that?

The boom in population and popularity of diving mean there is ever increasing pressure on the paua resource.

The commercial catch is closely monitored but there is no knowing what the total recreational catch is.

Anyone assisting in collection is also entitled to 10 paua, which some seem to define as wearing gumboots and waving a screwdriver.

There is also evidence of “black gold” tourism. We even allow recreational paua catch to be sent overseas.

An article on the Chinese WeChat site details how to go about harvesting the highly prized paua off the rocks at low tide near Bluff.

“Most black gold abalone just lets you see and seduce you,” it says in idiosyncratic English.

“We need a weapon – abalone knife. This weapon is provided free of charge by the New Zealand government.”

It advises collecting the prescribed plastic paua lever from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ office in Invercargill.

The article notes “such sea-carrying activities are difficult to experience in China”.

“Even in the city where my hometown of Dalian is close to the sea, there will be no such ecological circle.”

The reason for that is locals have stripped off the sea life.

We must ensure the same does not occur in Aotearoa.