Gathering under the umbrella of the 'Hokianga Accord' last week, a working group was formed to finalise a case to take to the Ministry of Fisheries.
The two day hui was attended by representatives of iwi and hapu, Option4 and the Ministry of Fisheres.
option4 is a nonprofit group lobbying to protect the rights of recreation fishers.
option4 spokesperson Paul Barnes said it was critically important for non-commercial fishers to be united on a shared fisheries project.
Mfish is currently meeting with key stakeholder groups for feedback on a shared fisheries policy. Ministry officers will provide advice to the Minister for consultation after July, The Minister will then make decisions and legislative amendments can be expected.
A key issue under discussion was Mfish plans for proportional allocation as a way of sharing the pain of rebuilding fish stocks. Mr Barnes said it was a grossly unfair proposition which would benefit the commercial fishers.
Speakers at the hui criticised the Ministry's performance and deficiencies in legislation.
Paul Haddon said, "We are sick and tired of feeding the Ministry information. All these guys (at the meeting) have had input and still we are waiting. We need decisions and the ministry needs to listen to recreational fishers."
The hui was chaired by Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau. He pointed out that the Quota Management System had been set up to curb depletion caused by commercial fishers. "Now they (commercial operators) are saying if our quota is cut these fellas will have to share the penalty. It was not of our doing. Look at it this way, if a bank is robbed, does it make any sense to ask those who had nothing to do with the robbery to help put the money back?"
The Hokianga Accord working group, includes Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau, Ngapuhi representatives Stephen Naera, Paul Haddon, Juda Heihei, Tom Moana (Tainui), representatives from Ngati Whatua and Ngati Wai and Option4 representatives Bruce Galloway, Scott Macindoe and Trish Rea.
option4’s Scott Macindoe told the Chronicle:
"The kaupapa of the Hokianga Accord is "more fish in the water" - not more fish in the chilly bin. We are increasingly clear, kaitiakitanga (guardianship, caretaking and best practice) is desperately needed. The law dictates that fisheries management decisions have particular regard to kaitiakitanga. Tangata whenua are realising that wide spread public understanding and support for kaitiakitanga is essential for it to be effective and have impact. Pakeha are also increasingly aware that kaitiakitanga is the only alternative to much of the current mismanagement occurring - especially in inshore fisheries and of course shell fisheries."
In the meantime a Kahawai legal challenge is set for the High court in June. Last year the Government decided to reduce the kahawai Total Allowable Catch (TAC) by ten percent, a move which was slated by the NZ Seafood Industry Council, which issued a counterclaim.
Non-commercial operators lodged an application to the High Court, hoping to 'better define the public's right to fish' and ensure more fish are left in the sea. It is seen as a test case.