CATCH ABOUT TO BE ALLOCATED
Article written by Steve Radich for the Northern Advocate
Most readers will probably be unaware of the mechanism by which
fishing rights are allocated by the Ministry of Fisheries. The right
to catch a fish in New Zealand is a property right.
The first step in the allocation process is to determine the virgin
biomass of the species under consideration. This process of estimation
is, by its very nature, extremely imprecise. At best, it‚s
only a good guess.
The collapse of the valuable offshore Orange Roughy fishery in recent
years can in part be attributed to the complete failure of this
The next consideration to be made is what portion of this estimated
virgin biomass should be kept out of the harvest equation to ensure
the sustainability of the fish species. Clearly, this second decision
is critical in determining whether or not what’s left over
for harvest [Total Allowable Catch] is sustainable or not.
Issues that further add to the challenges in making such a decision
are the reproductive rates of species. Fast growing species like
the kahawai are more likely to survive with a lower portion of the
biomass pie protected from harvest than slow growing, slow reproducing
species like the orange roughy.
Having determined the TAC, the harvestable fishery is then divvied
up between commercial and non-commercial interests according to
catch histories. The first bite of the cherry is allocated to recreational
and customary fishing rights. This is in accordance with both the
requirements of the Fisheries Act and commitments made to Tangata
Whenua when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
In this instance, informed observers advise me that this process
is heavily weighted in favour of commercial interests. This is because
they have been legally required to keep accurate catch records,
and further, that canny commercial fishos put in the extra mile
to secure a good catch record when the prospects of a property right
is on the horizon.
On the other hand, records of recreational and customary harvest
are little better than guesses. In the case of the once ubiquitous
kahawai, many are taken off wharves by children while others are
used for bait or released to live another day. Some observers have
also questioned the methodology of recent fishing surveys as a reliable
means of establishing levels of recreational and customary harvest.
The proportion of the fish available for commercial harvest is called
the Total Allowable Commercial Catch [TACC]. The commercial right
to harvest, once allocated, has an immediate market value.
One down side of this procedure for recreational and customary fishos
is that our catch records typically under record our catch. The
other is that there is no allowance for population growth. Double
the population and the catch per person will be halved. Think on
that for your grandchildren.
Meanwhile, stay alert for opportunities to contribute to the kahawai
allocation process. The next issue of the NZ Fishing News will have
a simple survey you can complete and www.option4.co.nz is a website
well worth a visit.