Provided by: Peter Francis
Gone Fishin- September
Well, well, well! the things you learn when you are drifting around on the ocean in the middle of the night.
A couple of weeks ago we joined John Gregory, skipper of the magnificent charter vessel Primetime, for a week chasing huge sharks and massive broadbill. The trip was fantastic and the results will appear in next years series, but in the limited space available I would like to talk about the unexpected education that came my way.
At this time of year the New Zealand longline fleet have caught their very limited quota of southern blue fin tuna and are focusing on big eye tuna. Well thats what they tell us! The truth is that they are targeting broadbill. It is against the law for them to do so but the organisation charged with enforcing this law does not seem the least bit interested in making the law work.
Out at sea you hear all of the candid communication between the longliners eg Boat one calling boat two, got a couple of marlin on board, one about 180 (kilos) the other about 140. Do you reckon George will take them?
Boat two, yeah! Well he took a couple of mine!
I couldnt believe it. Who the hell is George, and does this mean that he is buying marlin?
A third boat suggested they shut up but another boat talked about flicking a boat load of marlin into Queensland.
The next night the first prize went to two boats who had loaded up on swords and were heading for home.
Remember they are not allowed to target swords or broadbill swordfish, but when you put a light stick on a trace, hey presto, you are targeting swords. These guys talked about a new line that is available which is ideal for swords and I was left wondering why we have regulations at all if no one can be bothered enforcing them.
This was not the most interesting part of the conversation though, that took place when they discussed their respective catches. They talked about loading up on toothpicks.
I had never heard of toothpicks but what they were soon became obvious.
One vessel had a load of broadbill between 10 and 40 kilos. Yes thats right, little juvenile fish, and the other boat was also bringing in a load of toothpicks but these were a massive 30 to 70 kilos. So folks if its old enough to take a bait its curtains.
What does this mean?
Boats are targeting broadbill, everyone knows it but the law is not being enforced.
Longliners are wading into the juvenile fish and without protection our unique broadbill fishery will be unique no more and you know what? I dont blame the longliners.
These guys are trying to make a living, the law is a joke, and broadbill are easy to catch.
I reckon the NZ bluefin quota is partly to blame. Our longliners should get a bigger slice of the cake and secondly there should be a minimum size applied to broadbill, immediately, like yesterday. The other critical issue relates to placing broadbill on quota but we are yet to see anything sensible happening in this regard.
Why are broadbill so important? They are the ultimate game fish and we have the best fishery in the world, just!
Tomorrow it will be depleted a little more and the next day a little more and in a few years we will say where have all the broadbill gone and what a crying shame that greedy fishermen raped the resource.
Laws are to designed to protect us all, to manage the fishery for everyones benefit, and under effective management everyone makes a living.
We can have a commercially viable and recreationally productive fishery but not under the current mis-management.
What the hell is going on?
Call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) to report any illegal fishing.