New Recreational Fishing Forum
This article was originally
published in the Northern Advocate in September 2005
A couple of weeks back
a fishing Hui was called held at the Whakamaharatanga Marae in the
Hokianga. Called primarily by Ngapuhi,
both the recreational fishing lobby group option4
and officials of MFish were in attendance.
Among the more interesting outcomes was a decision by both Ngapuhi
and option4 to establish a joint forum to promote the interests
of all non commercial fishers.
This forum recognizes that
most non commercial fishers in this country have much more in common
that has ever been publicly acknowledged. To that extent I celebrate
this forum as an instrument of enlightenment. Many observers view
this unique coming together of Tangata Whenua and Pakeha interests
as a positive assertion of our joint custodianship of the maritime
domain in which we both play and gather food. However, for this
joint venture to prosper and bear fruit, much mutual suspicion and
many misunderstandings must be openly and honestly addressed.
For example, many Maori
are deeply suspicious of the game-fishing community. In this context,
the whole idea of killing fish for sport is an alien concept to
our Tangata Whenua. For those steeped in traditional Maori fishing
lore, kai-moana is harvested to feed the family. And it's carried
out with reverence.
Recognition of the beneficence
of Tangaroa, the God of this domain, in supplying the bounty is
an integral part of the harvest process. And the idea of fishing
for sport is unheard of. That's not to suggest that Maori don't
have an outrageously good time when harvesting kai moana. Whenever
I've been witness to Maori fishing activities, the sound of laughter
can be heard well across the water.
Another concern that I
frequently encounter when fishing with Maori is that Charter Fishers
should be considered commercial fishermen. After all, they are making
a living by harvesting our public property. The recreational fishing
lobby generally counters by promoting the view that charter fishos
are vehicles for the fishing interests of the recreational community.
This argument notwithstanding, is my view that many Maori are not
fully convinced of this.
On the other hand, many
Pakeha fishos are deeply suspicious of the extent of illegal activity
by Maori. Those who viewed with interest the outstanding TV series
"Coastwatch" couldn't help but notice that the overwhelming
majority of offenders had brown skins. Their oft-touted argument
that challenges the authority of our government holds little water
in the eyes of most non-Maori.
And Pakeha in general have
a pretty jaundiced view of the witnessed excesses of customary fishing
licensing. That there are changes taking place right now to tighten
up the process and punish the lawbreakers may not be well recognized.
And Maori themselves are generally keen to see these same problems
brought under control.
So, while there are some
real challenges before this forum of recreational fishos, I trust
readers will give it their support whenever the opportunity arises.
A more effective and harmonious management of our marine environment
is in the interests of us all.