does Proportional Allocation Mean?
is it unfair to non-commercial fishers?
to the Hokianga Accord
How It Used To Be
There were more fish and
they were bigger.
How it is now
The average size of fish
we now catch north of the Manukau has become much smaller. Northland's
west coast was once famous for it's numerous big snapper.
Now, there is not much difference
between the size of a snapper caught off the Hokianga and a snapper
from the Hauraki Gulf.
There is a widespread belief
that our fisheries are not well managed.
As recently as this week
environmental groups were complaining on TV3 about the poor management
of our fisheries and the lack of constraints on commercial fishing.
The Ministry of Fisheries
freely acknowledge there is only half as much snapper on the west
coast as what there should be, this means that recreational and
customary fishers will inevitably catch smaller fish and fewer fish
as there is only half as many fish in the sea as there should be.
The flounder and mullet fisheries
are further examples of how the Ministry of Fisheries has given
preference to commercial fishers.
They admit the quotas in
these fisheries are set far too high and are unsustainable yet fail
to take action and cut the quotas.
The reality is that after
having a QMS for 20 years many of our fisheries are still in a depleted
It is recreational and customary
fishers who bear the brunt of this mismanagement.
As the size of fish stocks
fall the recreational and customary catch falls.
Commercial fishers simply
get bigger boats or nets to continue to catch or exceed their quota
After 20 years of failing
to implement the QMS properly and rebuild depleted inshore fisheries
the Ministry of Fisheries now wants to change the way it allocates
catches between commercial and non-commercial fishers.
The Ministry has recently
started using a system it calls proportional allocation.
Proportional allocation of
fisheries is a method of giving all of the competing users in a
fishery, an explicit portion or share of the available catch.
If the fishery improves,
everyone's portion is increased by the same percentage.
If the fishery becomes depleted
everyone's catch is reduced by the same percentage.
It sounds very simple, and
on the surface, it appears to be fair.
Nothing could be
further from the truth.
The reality is that the proportional
system of allocation does not adequately provide for non-commercial
fishers, it will only make them minor shareholders in a commercial
Recreational leaders first
became aware of the true objective of a proportional allocation
system at a public meeting in Auckland in the year 2000.
I asked Jenni McMurran, a
Ministry of Fisheries representative, what the objective of the
Soundings process was, her response, it was to cap the
recreational tonnage and to avoid compensation issues for the Crown.
Why Cap Recreational Catch Now?
Recreational catch has been
suppressed to all time lows in many important inshore fisheries
through ongoing mismanagement of the commercial fishery.
If the Ministry can cap recreational
catches now it will mean the minimum possible amount of fish will
have to be set aside for non-commercial fishers.
The Ministry want to do this
is because the maximum possible tonnage of fish has already
been given to the commercial sector .
This has happened because
the Ministry's initial commercial quotas that were set at levels
to allow the rebuild of depleted fisheries have been ignored and
exceeded through a variety of measures.
Do the Ministry Need to Avoid Compensation Issues
The Ministry of Fisheries,
in their latest advice to the Minister, acknowledges the initial
allocations between commercial and non-commercial fishers were set
without any proper process.
It is obvious that serious
mistakes have been made. Flounder and mullet are two good examples.
Commercial fishers have been given so much quota in these fisheries
they have never been able to catch it.
The result is excessive commercial
fishing that leaves less fish available for recreational and customary
fishers in areas like the Manukau and Kaipara harbours.
Both of these fisheries were
reviewed this year, however the Minister decided it was more important
to keep the excessive commercial quotas in place, and avoid any
risk of compensation, rather than address the needs of the local
communities around these harbours.
Those who have been fighting
for sensible management over the past 15 years will likely have
to wait another five years for another opportunity to have these
To understand the dangers
of proportionalism we need look no further than the history of snapper
8, the west coast fishery from North Cape to Wellington.
In September the Minister
made a decision to cut commercial and recreational allocation by
In 1986 commercial fishers
were given 1330 tonnes of quota.
At time the Ministry said
this quota would allow this commercially depleted fishery to rebuild.
Since that time the Ministry
has failed to constrain commercial fishers to this quota.
As of last year commercial
fishers had removed over 6000 tonnes of snapper in excess of their
initial annual quota entitlement.
These excesses have been
achieved through mechanisms the Ministry has condoned such as allowing
QAA increases to inflate quotas, deeming and by illegal activity,
which the Ministry has failed to address.
Also during this time non-commercial
fishers accepted voluntary cuts by way of reduced bag limits, increased
minimum size limits and a reduction of hook numbers on longlines
to conserve in this fishery.
These voluntary measures
have resulted in a 26.6% reduction in non-commercial catch, a saving
of 800 - 1600 tonnes since 1995.
When the Minister made the
proportional decision and cut both commercial quota and recreational
allowance by 13% each he explained it by saying, "To be fair
to all New Zealanders, I've decided these reductions should be shared
across all sectors."
While the Minister may think
these reductions are fair what is obvious is that proportionalism
punishes those who conserve and rewards those who waste and squander.
It is hard to imagine
a system that would be more unfair
If we do not challenge decisions
that are as poor as these, we can expect more of the same.
It is becoming increasingly
clear that all non-commercial rights in fisheries are only strong
as our determination to fight for them.
Remember, Maori customary
catch was also reduced in the snapper 8 decision.
While the Ministry realise there are
major unresolved issues in the way they are implementing proportional
allocations it is obvious they find it easier to continue to take
fish off the non-commercial sector than face the consequences of
their mismanagement of the commercial fisheries.
Proportional Allocation of
fisheries is a recent policy construct of the Ministry of Fisheries.
It is not a mechanism included
in the Fisheries Act 1996.
Non-commercial fishers are
certain that it is a means by which the Ministry will allocate the
minimum possible tonnage of fish to non-commercial fishers to avoid
compensation issues for the Crown.
Proportionalism is firmly
rooted in the privatisation ideology of the 1980's and 90's that
caused major upheavals in society.
It caused massive unemployment
in the initial phase and is the reason why many unskilled workers
earn a pittance to this very day.
This ideology is all about
giving business priority and allowing market forces to determine
I am sure everyone knows
someone who was adversely affected.
Now they seem to be asking
us to endure more pain while commercial fishers are given total
priority as to how our fisheries are managed.
The proportionalism promoted
by the Ministry of Fisheries is an attempt to alter the commercial
quota rights in the fishery.
Instead of commercial fishers
quota representing a share of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch
(TACC) it will represent a share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC)
of all sectors.
Equally, non-commercial fishers
will also be given a share of the Total Allowable Catch of all sectors.
This share will be the amount
that is left over after the commercial quota rights have been transferred
to the proportional system.
Under a proportional system
the Ministry of Fisheries will remove themselves from allocation
decisions and commercial and non-commercial fishers will be asked
to develop Fisheries Plans " collaboratively ".
The Ministry and the Minister
of Fisheries would then be able to avoid their responsibility to
the people of this country, the Treaty and tangata whenua.
Remember, even with all the
resources available to the Ministry of Fisheries, they have failed
to properly manage commercial fisheries and rebuild them to the
minimum biomass required by the Fisheries Act 1996.
What hope then will an under-resourced
non-commercial sector have against the might of the commercial fishing
sector under a proportional system?
Proportionalism is a dangerous
experiment that could see the people of this country losing their
fishing rights as described in section 21 of the Fisheries Act.
It is totally against what
was promised to non-commercial fishers when the QMS was discussed
back in 1986.
The QMS was developed purely
to constrain commercial fishers who had depleted most of our inshore
Non-commercial fishing was
covered under a separate document the National Recreational Fishing
Policy and this is what was promised..
position is clear, where a species of fish is not sufficiently
abundant to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing,
preference will be given to non-commercial fishing."
We must never forget what
is rightfully ours in legislation.
We must argue that setting
the non-commercial allocations when our catch has been driven down
to low levels by excessive commercial fishing and poor management
is not acceptable.
At the present time commercial
quota is still a share of the TACC, not a share of the TAC, despite
whatever the Ministry of Fisheries may say. They will need legislative
change to pursue their proportional allocation system.
We have come one step forward
this year – instead of the Ministry ignoring the obvious flaws
in proportionalism they are now acknowledging them.
Our next step is clear, we
have to continue to apply pressure to the Ministry of Fisheries
so that our concerns are addressed.
The Ministry of Fisheries
appear to be operating under an irrational fear the commercial fishers
would win a court case against them if they make a decision that
is not proportional. However this belief has never been tested in
Neither the 1996 Fisheries
Act or the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act
1992 have specifically addressed how non-commercial fisheries would
be "allowed for" but they have made it clear that the Minister is
not bound by some proportional rule.
Is The Snapper 8 Decision Unfair?
Whole generations of Maori
customary and recreational fishers have been denied access to a
healthy snapper 8 stock and will not experience this fishery even
at the minimum biomass level required by the Fisheries Act.
This means two generations
will have had their rightful access suppressed because of the low
stock size caused by commercial overfishing.
Now the Ministry want to
lock all "recreational" fishing people into proportional allocations
based on what they catch in these depleted fisheries.
This includes Maori when
they are fishing for their whanau.
A survey of recreational
fishers clearly indicated that Maori are the highest "recreational"
users, 34% of recreational fishers.
Even though Maori may not
like the categorisation as being recreational they are a major player.
And also growing, population
wise, at the fastest rate.
Depleted fisheries have also
made it difficult for Maori customary fishers to adequately provide
kaimoana for marae functions.
This impacts on the mana of the marae
and Maori people.
Against this background
the non-commercial initial allocations have been made when non-commercial
catch was at minimum levels.