New Zealand's rockpools become desolate as shellfish stocks are depleted

While there's been an influx of people at the beaches this summer season something's missing around our coast.

Once full of life, rockpools are becoming desolate in some areas.

So a community north of Auckland is campaigning to overhaul the limits of what people can take.

As the tide recedes, residents gather to stage an intervention of sorts. In this holiday spot, lined with luxury homes, Omaha Beach residents are worried about the riches of shellfish they've seen taken away.

Mary Coupe launched a petition calling for shellfish limits to be lowered after what she says is almost daily reports of people taking buckets filled with periwinkles, kina, starfish and octopus.

All legal catches but Coupe says people are taking more than they need.

"There has been, and it could be rumour, that some are taking it for commercial reasons," Coupe says.

Extra fisheries compliance officers will be on duty around the country this summer but not just at the beaches.

"We have teams of intelligence officers that are constantly screening social media on this and one thing we do find over the summer months is that there is an increase in people selling kaimoana seafood on Facebook and other systems," says MPI fisheries compliance manager  Steve Ham.

Rahui or temporary closures set by tangata whenua are becoming common to encourage regeneration of shellfish stocks. Ngati Manuhiri says it's not about taking away people's rights.

"We need to have a more educative approach. That may mean in some cases reducing take for particular shellfish species and it may mean better monitoring of take that is allowed," says Ngati Manuhiri's Nicola McDonald.

It's not just collecting or fishing that's having an impact on stocks, there's also farming and forestation - or in the area of Okura, a marine reserve north of Auckland, it's also urbanisation that's having an impact.

Marine scientist Simon Thrush says the problem has moved past managing what we have to trying to bring it back.

"In some places they're declining faster than others but they're all going down. None of them are staying stable," he says.

But Fisheries New Zealand says it considers "harvest across the region to be sustainable, and if new information shows otherwise, we consider management action for individual sites on a case-by-case basis".

Such as east Auckland's Cockle Bay which is in danger of having no cockles. A full year-round closure now proposed there.

If even beaches named after their abundance of life are under threat, the Cowen family in Omaha wonder what will be left to serve the ecosystem.

"We want our kids to be able to play in the rockpools and swim without just no life, just pollution or just nothing's there. It would be quite boring and sad," Samson Cowen says.

The future of nature's aquariums at stake.