Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Informing Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management from an Indigenous Perspective: The Mōtū Kahawai Fishery

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posted on 2021-12-08, 09:06 authored by Maxwell, Kimberley

Despite agencies striving to manage fisheries sustainably, focusing on large-scale commercial interests and ignoring target species and their wider ecosystem interactions, has depleted or collapsed fisheries globally. Indigenous community well-being, practices, knowledge, and food supplies have also diminished as a result. Fisheries managers are now developing a more combined approach to decision-making, which recognises the social and ecological relationships of fisheries. The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries encourages fisheries scientists and managers to engage with each other, and with the wider community, and to include information on the wider social and ecological components of fisheries systems in decision-making.  This thesis explores an Indigenous fishery by demonstrating how to appropriately gather information from a wide range of sources to inform its management. We focus on a case study fishery for kahawai (Arripis trutta), from the perspective of Te Whānau-a-Hikarukutai/Ngāti Horomoana (TWAH/NH). This Hapū (sub-tribe) is part of the larger Te Whānau-a-Apanui Iwi (tribe) of New Zealand (NZ), who have strong cultural connections to, and a unique system for managing, the Mōtū kahawai fishery. This fishery is a small-scale, land-based, hand-line fishery for a medium-sized pelagic teleost fish based at the Mōtū river mouth, located at Maraenui in the eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ.  This research demonstrates holistic ecosystem-based fisheries research as a template for future fisheries research activities. A transdisciplinary research approach, grounded in kaupapa Māori research principles and Māori research ethics, was taken. A strategy was developed to direct engagement with Māori for fisheries research. The existing NZ fisheries management system was defined, and Independent fishery forum plans were identified as the most proactive way to inform the system. A plan can also be used to inform fisheries through other mechanisms; therefore, it is a valuable resource to create. Information on the history, background and value of the fishery was gathered and the Mōtū kahawai fishery identified as a cultural keystone species for TWAH/NH. Kahawai trophic and ecosystem interactions were described from ecology and mātauranga studies. This information was collated in a Hapū plan to inform management of the Mōtū kahawai fishery. This fishery has existed for ca. 600 years and the Hapū wish for it to thrive indefinitely. The Hapū plan will inform wider fisheries management, of Hapū values, practices, and knowledge, to be recognised by the wider community, and to support Hapū rangatiratanga (sovereignty) over the fishery.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Marine Biology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre for Marine Environmental and Economic Research

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Biological Sciences


Dunn, Matthew; Arnold, Richard

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