Sustaining toheroa (Paphies ventricosa) in Murihiku: Mātauranga Māori, monitoring and management
Staff involved: Henrik Moller, Miles Lamare, Katja Schweikert
Toheroa (Paphies ventricosa) is an endemic shellfish that lives in exposed sandy surf beaches of Taitokerau (Northland), the Kapiti coast and Murihiku (Southland). Harvests of this highly-prized customary food are managed by Māori kaitiaki (environmental guardians) who appoint Tangata Tiaki under the Customary Fisheries Regulations to authorize harvesting and guide management. The Ministry of Fisheries funded the Oraka-Aparima Runaka to record the matauranga (Traditional Ecological Knowledge) associated with toheroa populations and harvesting in Murihiku and to develop monitoring and restoration protocols.
Interviews of 25 kaitiaki, managers, scientists and knowledgeable locals by researchers from the Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai programme revealed a rich local knowledge of historical changes, current threats and some important differences between traditional harvest tikanga (protocols) and western-styled fisheries management. This study focused on three main toheroa colonies: Bluecliffs Beach and Orepuki Beach within Te Waewae Bay; and Oreti Beach near Waihopai (Invercargill). A full population abundance and structure survey of the new population at Orepuki, a population established by the kaitiaki in 1950s by translocation and supplementary feeding, was completed for the first time.
Our research participants generally affirmed the customary fisheries management regime that has replaced Ministry of Fisheries’ management of toheroa. They report that it is working well, is inclusive and fair and has acted in ecologically sensible ways by reducing harvesting pressure on the declining Bluecliffs Beach population.
There was strong consensus that the customary authorisation system has reduced waste, increased respect for the toheroa and their habitat, and allows a rekindling of tikanga and matauranga and connection between people and the wider environment. Follow-up studies on identified threats and an active translocation programme to bolster the Murihiku meta-population is underway.