Darren Guard, FirstMate

Commercial fishers in Hawke’s Bay are heaving a sigh of relief after identifying and marking “significant” log-fields and debris from Cyclone Gabrielle on the seabed.

The relief stems from knowing what lies below, said FirstMate’s general manager of operations Darren Guard.

Guard spoke to BayBuzz to give an update about a project funded by Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and a collaboration between MPI, Seafood New Zealand Inshore Council, and FirstMate.

Started in October and continuing through December, the project is to help identify debris fields safely and carefully and mark the positions so debris and hazard maps can be created.

“There is an immediate need to know where the hazards are, and a long-term need to know whether the silt from Cyclone Gabrielle has impacted the breeding cycle,” he said.

“What has been found so far is that debris are not necessarily where we expected them to be, and fishers are delighted they have also identified some clear ground.”

He said that knowledge meant fishers were now beginning to know where they could fish safely. “This enables them to gain confidence knowing they can fish without entanglement or debris.”

There are six vessels involved in the project and about 12 to 14 fishers who have completed approximately 100 tows so far.

“Risk assessments are being done daily, and this is giving the fishers confidence and relief knowing there is clear ground out there,” he said.

“Once the debris have been identified the information will be released to other fishers including recreational fishers and marine fishers so they know where debris can be found.

However, the work isn’t completed, he said. “They still need to identify more clear ground, expand on previous tows.”

“This is just one way of commercial fishers giving back to the community.”

In the interim, FirstMate is continuing to offer support to fishers by hosting wellbeing events for local fishers with the next one on December 2 at Boat Ramp Eatery, 30 Nelson Quay, Ahuriri, Napier.

FirstMate is an organisation formalised as a charitable trust in 2021 to help support the wellbeing and mental health of those who work in the commercial seafood sector and their whānau.

These services are set to continue to June 2024 thanks to contributions of industry groupsThe donations total $135,000, including $100,000 from Seafood New Zealand, $20,000 from Aquaculture New Zealand, and $15,000 from the Rock Lobster Industry Council.

Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air


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