By Malcolm Pullman
"Dargaville - The massive beds of Tuatua
clams from Baylys Beach left 10 commercial shellfish pickers out
of work and hundreds of local clam lovers without their favorite
clams. Mr. Barry Searle, a commercial clam fisher on the beach
for 30 years, said the shellfish vanished almost overnight six
weeks ago - in late august. He said the mullet, normally common
this time of year, had also vanished.
"The ministry of fisheries policy manager, Mr. Arthur Hore,
said that they had no reliable data to work with and some fisheries
officers believe this has happened before. The shellfish fishers
thought the clams died because of increased use of pesticides
on farms and waterways, but there is nothing to back up the idea."
Howard Jury, President of the Whangaparaoa Rotary Club, says that
when he was a boy, the cockles were so
thick on the sand flats near his home he couldn't put his fingers
into the sand without touching one. Today that same beach has
only a few cockles. Where have they gone? Why have they gone?
Toheroa have become so rare fishing
for them is prohibited almost everywhere.
Many New Zealanders, including scientists, agree that shellfish
have declined on beaches in the past ten to twenty years. But
until recently, few people had ever done a census of shellfish
on most of New Zealand's beaches. Often, the information from
studies that were done was lost.
Stories of shellfish vanishing from beaches told by older people
in the community are often supported by the remains of dead shellfish
along the coastline, indicating most protected beaches once did
have huge numbers of shellfish.
Now, communities throughout New Zealand are invited to work with
the Ministry of Fisheries, their Regional Councils and Sea Keepers
to uncover the clues to the mystery of the vanishing shellfish.
Together, we will work to correct the problem and restore our
valued resources to good health.