17th March 2006
Recreational Fishers Condemn Fisheries Proposals
option4, a national recreational fishing group has slammed Ministry of Fisheries proposals to proportionally allocate fisheries resources limiting the public’s ability to access a reasonable daily bag limit.
Trish Rea, spokesperson for the option4 group, said analysis of proposals and attitudes within the Ministry over recent decades show an overwhelming bias to the commercial fishing sector to the detriment of the customary and recreational fishing public.
“The concept of sharing the fisheries resource by allocating each sector a fixed share may initially sound fair but nothing could be further from the truth. We are struggling to identify one single benefit to the non-commercial fishing public,” she said.
Of particular concern is the affect on Maori, as ninety nice percent of the time they fish they do so as recreational fishers. They are also more likely to be fishing for food rather than sport.
Ms Rea said that many of our fisheries had been over allocated when the Quota Management System was introduced in 1986. To avoid compensating commercial fishers a second time the Government was now looking for ways to address the imbalance of excessive commercial fishing. The easiest solution seems to be to take fish off the public and give it to the fishing industry through a proportional allocation system.
This is totally unfair as the public were promised preference if there were insufficient fish to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing, during the introduction of the quota system. Now it seems the Government is reneging on its promise, purely to satisfy commercial demands.
The Fisheries Act specifically directs Minister of Fisheries to “allow for” non-commercial interests such as customary and recreational fishing. But these new proposals for proportionalism are clearly designed to limit the public’s catch.
“Underlying the plan is the woeful track record of the Ministry of Fisheries. Many fisheries have been severely depleted by commercial exploitation and have not rebuilt despite twenty years of the quota system,” she said. “Customary and recreational fishers have borne the brunt of this mismanagement as the fish just aren’t there any more.”
Ms Rea said there was growing public awareness of this poor management. Recreational fishermen on the west coast of the North Island were the latest to feel the effects of years of commercial overfishing when cuts were made to daily bag limits. The Ministry failed to acknowledge excessive exploitation had left less than half the amount of fish in the water that there should be.
Using their proportional allocation model the Ministry chose to reduce both commercial and non-commercial catch, ignoring the conservation efforts of recreational fishers to rebuild that fishery.
“ Fisheries Officers had advised the Ministry that illegal practices such as high grading (where fish are selected for their particular size and quality) and dumping of snapper is more common on the west coast of the North Island than in any other areas,” Ms Rea said.
This has caused the loss and wastage of hundreds and possibly thousands of tonnes of fish in an important shared fishery. These practices, sanctioned by Ministry inaction, result in depleted fisheries that dramatically reduce public access to healthy stocks.
Ms Rea said, “Current management is heavily biased towards the commercial sector as they were the only stakeholders with strong rights to sue for compensation. The public object to the ongoing mismanagement, reduced catches in depleted fisheries and the Ministry’s failure to rebuild important shared fisheries.”
option4 is seeking a mandate from the public to speak on their behalf regarding this very important issue. This can be done online or by using the coupon printed in the New Zealand Fishing News.
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