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Tacklebox Politics

Who's Telling Porkies?
By Bill Cooke
NZ Fishing News article January 2001

Who's telling porkies - is it the Recreational Fishing Council or is it the Ministry of Commercial Fisheries? Well, who really cares? Currently both are locked in a fight over who included licensing into the 'Soundings' process and document.

It may help readers or sideline observers to understand that, right or wrong, the Recreational Fishing Council can never win this one. An intelligent organization wouldn't even try, simply because at any one time at the Joint Working Party meetings, there were always more ministry staff than Recreational Fishing Council members present. Naturally the ministry would be able to close ranks around any decision they saw as necessary or important to their agenda. However, I know that where there is smoke there is more often than not fire, and from comments and remarks I've heard over a period of time, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Ministry wanted and sought to include licensing into the document. Is this yet another example of the words of various ministry staff who have proved beyond doubt that they cannot be trusted? More importantly, isn't it once again a case of untruthful advice from them to this apparently very open, honest and intelligent Minister of Fisheries?

For those of us close to the action, we've known for a very long time that certain people inside the NZ Recreational Fishing Council have been paying lip service to their policy of 'no licensing, no quota and the Ministry of Fisheries to run the fisheries'. However, under the surface I believe there has always been a hidden driving desire to license the NZ fishing public by key members of the Recreational Fishing Council. Judging by the comments at meeting after meeting around the 'Soundings' document, it is obvious that both groups agreed to put licensing in that document. It is now irrelevant.

History has proven it has been about as big a strategic cock-up as is possible. It was the one uniting factor that has started the stampede to assist the option4 group, on behalf of the NZ public, to enshrine in law the public priority right to 'fish free forever'. What is even more environmentally important is to bring the coastal fish stocks back up from their current collapsed level - the result of the failed and ineffectual management of Warwick Tuck's "wonderful, full of integrity and hardworking" (his words) policy people.

Let's take some more examples of their failed management other than the well documented orange roughy debacle. Firstly the approximately 140% overcatch of the blue nose fishery by the industry over the last year, right under their very own bloody noses in Wellington. Secondly the efforts of MoF's Auckland office-based Dave Allen, who pushed the Minister's favoured commercial pilchard take based on an average case catch-history of a likely safe 813 tonnes per year up to 2000 tonnes in yet another failed advice paper.

If that wasn't bad enough, Allen had been repeatedly told by myself, Dr Roger Grace and others that there had to be included in that TAC, a mechanism to make sure that those commercial fishers took the 2000 tonnes catch from different areas up and down the greater Northland area. This was primarily to avoid the risk of localised depletion. This was to both my own and others views, a shoddy and industry patronising advice paper to Pete Hodgson. Right now I am sitting in Tryphena Harbour at Great Barrier Island.

Barrier Crays Overfished?

At least two months ago I rang Arthur Hore (Auckland based MFish policy manager) about the serious over-fishing of crays this season at Great Barrier Island.

In a whole lifetime of coming to these shores, I've never seen such concentrated pressure on the recreational crayfish stock. It has to cease! While I acknowledge that Arthur Hore never had time to do much about it before Xmas, the Ministry had better bloody well do something for next season. The island cannot possibly absorb this kind of pressure.

If the fishing public still want a reasonable Great Barrier Island crayfishery this year, in the end they are going to have to organise and take the law into their own hands. The public are going to need to organize and sort it themselves. One thing that the minister Pete Hodgson could do that would show good face with the public, is to buy back some of the newly arrived quota and retire it forever. Thus bringing down the commercial TACC at the same time, and setting a very low future allowance within the TACC for Great Barrier Island.

Ahoy there Pete Hodgson!

We've had enough of endless lies and broken promises from your ministry staff. Do something, shipmate! Start the process voluntarily that sometime in the future will have be done anyway. Start rectifying the massive blunder Warwick Tuck's predecessors created in 1986 when they gave our heritage to the fishing industry in apparent perpetuity.

This could be the example the MFish CEO Tuck talked about in his bleat last month when he told us all about how good his staff were. How many more major performance and protection failures of our fisheries does the long suffering NZ public have to keep absorbing from this incompetent ministry?

What is even more environmentally important is to bring the coastal fish stocks back up from their current collapsed level.

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