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  Crimpy's Column - Option 5 and still fishing? by Daryl Crimp.

At the time of writing my wife is on the cusp of giving birth.

I've told her to keep her legs crossed as the rights of future recreational fishers are under threat to the point that, one day, only a selected few will be doing it. If that happens it will be unfair to bring babies into the world and Annette and I will have to put ours back.

Of course, I am talking about the Soundings Document that is currently confusing only those people who read it and causing a great deal of angst in fishing circles. The paper was put together by a working group comprising of members from the Ministry of Fantasies and the Recreational Friendly Council, who were enlisted to spend two years finding ways we could manage our recreational rights into the future.

It's a great read and is in no way confusing if you read every third word and leave out those of more than four letters. What is confusing, is that it turns out we don't actually have any fishing rights, but the committee reckons they can manage them anyway. To explain how this could be achieved, they held meetings all over the country and then advertised them a day later so we could attend, be enlightened, have our say and take away a Soundings document to

make submissions from.

If you lived miles from any of the set meetings, MoF gave you the option of requesting a special meeting for your area which never took place on account of the fact that they had no funding to hold special meetings. Now that all three people who did attend a meeting by accident are fully informed of our options, the rest of us are expected to make submissions on how we want to manage our fisheries - by the end of November.

Confused? Don't be. The authors of Soundings stress that their work is only a DISCUSSION document and they welcome input from the masses. Fortunately for us, a group of people who actually go fishing, read the document and found a few loopholes amongst the fishhooks. As it was only a DISCUSSION document and input was welcomed, they came up with an alternative, which they cleverly titled option4. Options 1, 2 and 3 had already been thought of.

 At this juncture, the Soundings people, who have our interests at heart, suddenly started making a lot of negative soundings about option4, rather than welcoming discussion on their DISCUSSION document. Confused? Me too.

 To make matters worse, the option4 dudes then made it easier for us dudes that want to spend more time on the water. They printed and distributed a heap of forms, so that we could make our submissions more easily. The Soundings doofers were more incensed, because they claim option4 doesn't have all the answers. They reckon Soundings is better because, while it also doesn't have all

the answers, it has the ones they like.

 I'm not going to take sides here, because I think you should make up your own minds. However, Soundings does contain some silly ideas and red herrings you should watch out for. The first of which is the Licencing of Recreational anglers.

This will lead to such a level of bureaucracy as to make it unworkable. For example, are they going to issue a lifetime licence, because we all know how long they last. And what about licence categories? If you are not as good at catching fish as Sam Mossman, do you get a learner's licence? If you target flying fish, do you need a pilot's licence? If you can afford to chase marlin, do you need a heavy-duty licence? Will charter operators have to go for their passenger's licence, and for those that have to pay for a charter trip, will they need a commercial licence?

 Imagine if photos are required on all licences. I can see the authorities pulling up along side my boat and demanding to check my licence. "That doesn't look like you Crimpy," they'll say.

"Well, the photo has been digitally enhanced. They shrunk my body to make the fish look bigger," would be the reply.

 The idea of linking us to the quota system based on current catch records is scary, too. According to my calculations, taking into account the sex rate between heterosexual anglers and the increasing birth rate, in fifteen years there will be 1.2 million anglers targeting twelve snapper off Bert's Bluff alone.

 I think the option4 guys are on the right track. The first step is to

give us recreational anglers some rights. Priority over the commercial sector would be a good start, considering their history of fisheries management. I mean, if they had opened up the orange roughy beds to us, at least we would have stray-lined for them.

 I can't believe that it has been so difficult to come up with a management system to protect the rights of recreational fishers and the fishery. In fact, I did it this afternoon. It's called Option 5.

 The first step is to give recreational anglers priority in legislation over commercial interests. If we have anything left over at the end of the year, we can sell a portion to the commercial sector. It's common accountancy practise called 'stock clearance' to make way for new season's stock.

 Of course, we won't have anything left over at the end of the year because we have to think of our junior anglers. It's common accountancy practise called reinvesting for the future.

 Then we protect areas that are sensitive to fish spawning and recreational usage. It may take some time to convince the commercial boys that long-term benefits would see them fishing the coast of Adelaide for great whites, but it would be worth the battle.

 As a sweetener, we could offer them an alternative catch. Rather than pillaging our snapper and kingfish stocks, we could force a move in Parliament to decriminalise seal catching, making both the commercial boys and the politicians happy. The commercial sector will no longer have to hide their by-catch and Helen Clark would become flavour of the month with someone other than her husband.

 Next, we should make fisheries funding the responsibility of all recreational anglers. Not through licencing, but through taxation. We should continue paying our taxes, but stress that the Government not squander them on golden handshakes, travel junkets, 30,000 Departmental inquiries and photo ops with foreign Diplomats, but spend it wisely on buying back commercial quota and giving it to us.

 Selflessly, I believe we should donate the portion of the petrol tax that goes into our outboards, not into the road-user fund, but into fisheries management.

If the Government won't wear this, and insist it go into roads, that's fine. As long as it's the end of the roads. Boat ramps.

 Lastly, I believe we should all play the political game. We should pick a friendly, but not astute, politician and get them on our side. I suggest leaking a fax to Nodoor Tanktop along the lines that smoked snapper have aphrodisiac qualities. He will then get his mate Sue to help him stage a sit-in, before a mass of crass commercial corporate trawlers, thus gaining us international recognition for our cause.

 Not only that, they will then advocate that all green fish be accorded

medicinal status and then move to decriminalise all recreational fishing.

Of course, I would do all of this, but the baby has just arrived. I'm a bit busy explaining that it will have to wait to go fishing, so I guess the best option is that you vote for option4.

That way, at least you will get to have a say.

Pull: And what about licence categories? If you are not as good at catching fish as Sam Mossman, do you get a learner's licence? If you target flying fish, do you need a pilot's licence?

Daryl Crimp

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