Ministry Tackled on Fisheries 'Over-catch'
1 November 2006
This article was originally published in The Independent Financial Review 1st November 2006
A GROUP made up of Ministry of Fisheries officials and the fishing industry has found the ministry's management system has allowed "chronic over-catch" in some fish stocks. The admission is likely to be seized on by the country's major recreational fishing groups when they take on the ministry in the Auckland High Court next week alleging it mismanaged the nation's kahawai fishery.
The groups also say the ministry may be acting illegally in the annual process of setting the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for commercial fishermen.
Spokesmen for the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council and option4 last month presented a joint submission to the ministry on the findings of a "deemed values" joint working group.
They were supported by Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau and Ngati Whatua chairwoman Naida Glavish.
Deemed values is the term used in the fishing industry for the fine imposed on fishermen by the ministry for a failure to balance their landed catch of quota management system stocks with catch entitlement rights.
Each species has a set rate per kilogram to cover the deemed value over-catch fine payable to the ministry.
In 2004 the ministry set up a joint working group with the industry to look at the question of over-catch and deemed values after it was forced to pay out $23 million to the fishing industry.
It had conceded to Parliament's primary production and regulations review select committees it had acted illegally in the collection of deemed values since 1996 (The Independent, 19 February 2003).
Tau, Glavish, and the sporting groups said they should have been invited to participate in the joint working group discussions.
Instead they were given just two months to make a submission on the outcome of a one-sided process.
They based their latest assertions in particular on section 21 of the 1996 Fisheries Act.
This says the Fisheries Minister, now Jim Anderton, is required to take into consideration recreational and Maori fishing interests before setting the annual TACC.
In their submission to the joint working group the lobby groups noted how in some fisheries there were well documented "mortalities" that had never been allowed for when successive fisheries ministers set the annual TACC.
"We are very concerned there has been far too much focus on the rights of quota holders and far too little discussion on [the ministry's] responsibility to manage our fisheries for sustainable use," they said.
They said tangata whenua and recreational fishing interests had their allocations correspondingly cut when fisheries, such as the "snapper 8" fishery on the west coast of the North Island, had clearly been over- fished commercially.
The ministry is analysing submissions received and preparing final advice for Anderton on the group's recommendations. New deemed value policy could be in place for the 1 October 2007 fishing year.
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