Episode 26: A Passion for Paua
Baby paua about to be re-seeded in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo by Julian O'Brien.
Paua fisherman Barry Chandler. Photo by Julian O'Brien.
On the next episode, screening August 7 at 7pm on TV ONE:
A Passion for Paua
This episode looks at a massive gamble by professional paua divers in the Marlborough Sounds.
Alarmed by a decline in paua numbers, they've invested money in putting hatchery-grown baby paua into the wild, in the hope they'll survive and boost the future paua harvest.
Country Calendar filmed with the divers, and also at a local hatchery where the baby paua are bred and grown.
The hatchery, at Whekenui Bay, near the entrance to Tory Channel, is a family-run venture. Owner Mike Radon is from the United States, and met his New Zealand wife, Antonia, when they were both diving in California for abalone - the equivalent of our paua.
Mike had always dreamed of having an abalone hatchery, but says the cost of land and the complexity of planning restrictions made it almost impossible to achieve in California.
On a visit to New Zealand, Mike and Antonia saw the farm at Whekenui Bay and fell in love with the Cook Strait views and the wildness of the spot.
Mike also saw the potential for a hatchery, although he didn't realise at the time how well-suited the location was, with its endless supply of cold Cook Strait water.
Marlborough's paua divers are buying hundreds of thousands of tiny paua from the hatchery and re-seeding them in the Sounds. The project is funded from the levy that all quota-holders pay.
Trials and scientific investigations have taken place for several years, but the project is now moving to a larger scale.
And there are signs that it's working. Diver Barry Chandler took the Country Calendar crew to a spot near Cape Jackson, in the outer part of Queen Charlotte Sound, where he and a team of others had re-seeded thousands of juvenile paua six months previously.
He found large numbers of small paua which he was able to identify as having come from the hatchery, proving that the seedlings had survived their first six months and were continuing to grow.
Barry says poaching, which was rife in the 1990s, is the main reason paua numbers have been declining. Today, the illegal trade is largely under control, thanks to better co-operation between the industry and fisheries inspectors.
And, he says, that means an increase in juvenile paua numbers should translate into increased harvests of adult-sized paua in the future.