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Peter Ellery (Secretary for NZRFC)
comments on option4 submission draft - 14/12/00


 

Congratulations to the group on the production of the Funding Paper, Part II of the group's submission.

The proposals in this paper make the important move forward from Part I, in getting to the definitive, in identifying the importance of the Public Right to a share of the fish and an appropriate place in the fisheries management process, for representation of the Public Right to take food from the sea.
I agree with and support all proposals in the Funding Paper.

We know that we have a right.
Soundings calls for a legal identification of that right and an ability for representation of that right to be effective in the protection and enhancement of that right.
Every right contains some responsibility.

Can I suggest that we lose this tag of "recreational" in the definition of this right. I believe that one of the main things that is wrong with the status quo is that our Public Right to take a daily bag limit of food from the sea has acquired the label "recreational", i.e. some sort of frivolous use of the coastal resource.

This Public Right of access to the nation's common coastal resource predates the Human Rights Declarations, predates the Magna Carta, back to Greek and Roman Law.
It is a citizen right from Article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi.

However so does the right of commercial fishers. Most of the apostles were apparently fishermen, so commercial fishers have been part of our communities forever. In acquiring a definition of their right they have also been required to shoulder responsibilities for that right.

I'm concerned that Option4 is placing so much importance on the '89 Recreational Fishing Policy and then only acknowledging half of the statement. In the first half of that Policy, in fisheries that can support both sectors, (which is where we want our fisheries to be and where most of them are now headed) the Public and Commercial sectors shall each be entitled to "a reasonable share".
We have to work out how to achieve co-management in the shared coastal fisheries. Any shared management process will require a statutory "stakeholder equality status" between commercial and noncommercial representation. i.e. 50/50 stakeholders regardless of the proportion of the harvest in any fisheries that are shared. There are no legal grounds for a priority for either sector, 50/50 eliminates any possibility of being a "minority stakeholder".

We will also be required to acknowledge a similar level of responsibility for the protection and management of our Public Right as it acquires legal definition. It is not logical to continually criticise MFish for its performance in fishery management and then have a policy of "the Ministry should manage the Public share of the fisheries".

Having accepted some responsibility for the Public Right, clearly there is a requirement for a mandated management structure with clearly defined, legislated capability and the resources to be as capable in the fisheries management process, as we are important.
The Funding Paper proposals on a regional to national structure to represent the Public Fishing Right provide the ability to be capable in the MFish fishery management process. The mix of voluntary funding from the fishing public and Government funding for the provision of services has the potential to provide enough working capital for the structure to adequately represent the public interests.

We have our objectives for our share of the fisheries, we should be able to formulate our component of fisheries plans but that does require an acceptance of the responsibility to do so. As a nation, we have reached the stage in the management of our coastal fisheries where we have an improving knowledge of the state of the various fisheries. Recognition of the kawa of the Treaty Partner is enabled into legislation. Commercial harvesting is being better controlled by the definition of their right, the ITQ. The new Fisheries Act requires a more holistic approach to fisheries management.

The final link to be forged into the process is the people's share of the fish.

What Soundings calls for is;

  • A clearly defined relationship between the Public Right of access to a daily bag limit and the other rights-holders in our coastal fisheries, Customary Maori and Commercial.
  • The establishment of a sound management structure
  • Both components enacted into Fisheries Legislation

The important points from Soundings (pg 11) are;

  • There is currently a lack of clear, legislated guidance on what share of the available catch should go to Public fishers versus Commercial
  • Public fishers have not really achieved any real ability to act collectively in protecting and promoting their interests on behalf of the Public Right

Therefore

  • There is a clear need for a clearer definition of the relationship between Public fishing and other fishing rights
  • Systems and tools must be implemented to achieve improved area based management of Public fishing
  • These systems and tools must supply ways to ensure that the representation of Public fishers can protect their interests and right.

The Funding Paper is the best submission, in proposals to meet those challenges that I have seen so far.

If these proposals were to be combined with a definition that stated something like, "After allowance for Customary harvest, any shared coastal fishery shall be managed on a statutory 50/50 stakeholding between commercial and noncommercial representation" or similar, I believe that we could ensure that we protect the people's share of the fisheries for our grandchildren and theirs and beyond.

While most Public fishers are not interested in any involvement in any part of management, the 13-22% who indicated that they were prepared to take an interest, from the Walshe and Akroyd survey, amounts to a significant number from about a million people. Option4's website and publicity campaign has shown that we can transparently communicate the issues to the public and get the feedback. We can do this.

Peter Ellery

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