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Northlands Forum


Northland's New Recreational Fishing Forum

by Steve Radich

September 2005

 

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.

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