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Fishing crews race to save paua

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 15/11/2016 Ben Leahy

Canterbury fishing crews are frantically relocating exposed paua underwater after Monday's quake pushed parts of the coastal seabed up to two metres above the waterline.

Paua Industry Council chairman Storm Stanley said the patches of raised seabed stretched from the Kaikoura coast through to Cape Campbell in Marlborough.

Affecting many of the region's most important paua grounds and reefs, he estimated tens, if not hundreds, of tonnes of the edible sea snails had been left high and dry.

With paua able to survive for a only few days out of water, he said Kaikoura and Marlborough crews were racing to save the animals.

"This is probably the last day that it is possible (to relocate them) because there is a very warm north-west wind going and paua like cool, damp conditions," Mr Stanley said.

"Anything that is exposed is either dead or dying now."

With the Kaikoura region accounting for around 10 per cent of New Zealand's total paua catch, he said it was too early to put a cost on the damage done to the industry or if jobs will be lost.

"We know it is very serious," he said.

He said recreational fishers and Maori will also be affected because the Kaikoura coastline was one of the country's most accessible.

"For a local Maori, it is going to be heartbreaking," he said.

"They have lived on the Kaikoura coast ... for 400-or-500 years and they have always been able to get paua from the rocks. It looks like that is going to take a big hit."

Ministry for Primary Industries director of fisheries management, Dave Turner, said his team was not only assessing the damage but discussing with stakeholders how to protect the remaining paua.

He said this could include closing some areas to fishing in the short term.

People should also avoid eating the exposed paua or rock lobster because it could make them ill.

"Reports indicate that most of the paua have died and are rotting," Mr Turner said.

"Our message is: alive or dead, paua found out of the water should not be eaten. This is absolutely critical."

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