Fisheries Policy Process
by Trish Rea
||Robin Connor, Senior Policy Analyst, Wellington
||Keith Snow (Orua & Wattle Bay Ratepayers Assoc), Brett
Oliver (option4), Richard Baker (NZBGFC), Kim Walshe (Akroyd
Walshe), Paul Barnes (option4), Trish Rea (option4), Scott Macindoe
|| Almorah Place, Newmarket, Auckland
||Define the problems associated with shared fisheries.
||Discuss what other problems need to be addressed.
||Develop options for a better management framework.
Scott Macindoe opened
the meeting with a welcome to Robin Connor and everyone present.
From the outset it was
important we understood what the Ministry's objective of the Shared
Fisheries Policy Development process was. If it was the same objective
as the Soundings process, as articulated by Jenni McMurran
at a public meeting in the year 2000, then there was no point in
The objectives of Soundings
- Cap the recreational catch
- Avoid compensation issues for the Crown
Robin stressed that he
had not been informed that the objectives expressed during the public
consultation phase of Soundings were Ministry policy,
and that he had never seen those objectives published in any Ministry
At this stage of the process
his team had been tasked with analysing the problems associated
with the current framework and develop options to improve the management
of shared fisheries. Fiscal considerations were not part of the
However, it was notable
that at no stage had Ministry refuted those objectives, considering
we have published them for the past six years.
There are many outstanding
issues about the unfairness of the current system, how it has evolved
and the impact mismanagement has, and is, having on non-commercial
fishing interests. If the Ministry of Fisheries was looking for
a fiscally neutral solution then it would be a sign the Ministry
have no goodwill and no willingness to undo those injustices.
Robin was not at this
meeting to discuss integrating recreational fishers into the Quota
Management System (QMS). He was clear the QMS is a commercial management
The absence of case studies
in Ministry proposals was highlighted as being a demonstration of
poor process. With the stated intention of achieving management
changes through the implementation of Fisheries Plans it was important
to have some meaningful reference point. The current crop of "proof
of concept" Fisheries Plans were meaningless.
Southern Blue Whiting,
Foveaux Strait oysters and the Coromandel scallop fishery had no
relevance to problems associated with shared fisheries. Snapper
8 (SNA8), snapper 2 (SNA2), Hapuku (HPB), Flounder 1 (FLA1) and
grey mullet 1 (GMU1) would be more relevant to this allocation discussion.
Some benefits of case
- Study imbalance quota holdings
- Section 28N rights
- Adaptive Management Programmes
The Fisheries Act 1996
is explicit in management objectives, section 13 states fisheries
are to be managed at or above the level that can produce Maximum
Sustainable Yield (MSY), or moved towards that level, of Bmsy. After
twenty years of the Quota Management System (QMS) the Ministry had
not achieved this objective in many of our fisheries. i.e. SNA8
is at half this level.
It is in the fishing industry's
interests to have fisheries below MSY because they can still maintain
their catches. In a rebuilding fishery the recreational catch would
increase with the increasing biomass, an undesirable benefit from
a commercial fishers perspective. The Ministry accepts that recreational
catch would increase if fisheries were managed at a higher level.
Conversely, in a declining
fishery recreational catch drops as the commercial sector fishes
the biomass down. This constitutes a reallocation from the non-commercial
sector to commercial fishers. This initial reallocation is not acknowledged
in any management decisions and is a fundamental problem that needs
to be addressed. The recreational sector want the reallocation
reversed and fisheries managed at or above Bmsy, as a first step.
Whether Fisheries Plans
or some other mechanism is used to implement management objectives,
one of the outcomes of this process will need to be the delivery
of a firm allocation guide, or future planning will stall on this
the door to eventual legislative change leaves the recreational
sector vulnerable to domination of this Shared Fisheries Policy
Development process by commercial interests, as they have all the
rights and resources.
Before discussion of the
key issues and challenges as set out in the document provided, 'Notes
for Meeting with Recreational Fishing Forums and Key Stakeholder
Groups January-February 2006' (Appendix One) commenced it was noted
that the an important issue of capacity and structure to represent
recreational interests was raised at the previous week's meeting
of the Recreational Fishing Ministerial Advisory Committee (RFMAC).
Another major concern
is that the Ministry have accepted the fishing industry's argument
that if reductions are to be made then both commercial and recreational
catch needs to be reduced proportionally. The threat of having to
pay compensation seems to have influenced the Ministry's advice
and subsequent Minister's decisions; the most recent example of
this is the snapper 8 decision 
. If Ministry maintain their rigid stance on
having a fiscally neutral solution to the allocation issue then
it would inhibit advancement of this process.
The outstanding issue
to be addressed is that there was never a proper process to set
the initial allocations and MFish have already acknowledged this.
Unless this is addressed then progress is unlikely.
There is also a problem
of no incentives for either commercial or recreational fishers to
conserve fish. The Ministry's proportional reduction of catches
in SNA8 failed to take into account the conservation efforts made
by the recreational sector. There has been a 26% voluntary reduction
in catch by recreational fishers since 1995 through increased minimum
size limits, reduction of hooks on longlines and daily bag limit
On the other hand, commercial
fishers are using trawl gear designed to catch 25cm snapper. The
same gear is catching red gurnard and leatherjackets which usually
only grow 20-30 cm  . No
account is made of the significant number of undersized snapper
caught in the same trawl and discarded.
It is apparent that management
needs to be more responsive to maximise good recruitment years and
have the ability to make selective changes to ensure those recruitment
cycles are protected from overfishing, are allowed to grow and replenish
The management objective
of MSY versus other strategies including, Maximum Economic Yield
(MEY) from a higher biomass, or optimal yield, also needs to be
discussed in more detail.
Robin was very keen to
go through the key issues and challenges that had been identified,
the fundamental concepts and not so much management tools that would
be an outcome of more discussion after the actual problems had been
From our perspective it
was important that the history of the fishery is taken into account.
There was some urgency to introduce the QMS in the 1980's to rebuild
severely depleted inshore fisheries to MSY. Commercial fishers were
compensated to fish to sustainable levels, a total over $128 million
of which over $40 million applied to inshore fisheries. We have
had twenty years of a quota system and the rebuild objective has
not been met.
Added to this is the reality
that recreational catch has been unprotected from the impacts of
commercial fishing. Moyle's Promise, which we still maintain is
valid, was a means of protecting what was, and is, an inexplicit
portion of the fishery. It has only been the abandonment of Moyle's
Promise that has enabled proportional reductions to be made.
Ministers of Fisheries
are consistently denied information that would give them a complete
scenario. Last year's decision for SNA8 is an excellent example.
The Minister was not advised that recreational fishers had conserved
between 800 and 1600 tonnes of snapper since 1995 to assist in the
rebuild. Nor was he reminded that commercial fishers had taken over
6,000 tonnes in excess of their initial allocation. If deficient
advice were being given to Ministers now we would need some sort
of guarantee that all the important details are given to the Minister
to enable him to make a balanced decision based on all the facts,
in the future.
A positive outcome from
this process is the possibility to include a more specific rebuild
timeframe in a new management framework.
The recreational sector
also wanted Ministry to manage fisheries according to the Fisheries
Act, at or above a level that will produce MSY. Important shared
fisheries should be managed at a level well above MSY to allow for
the time lag between acknowledging a problem in a fishery and making
any changes. This delay can be anything up to ten years.
Throughout the Ministerial
Consultative Group (MCG) process and the Reference Group process,
following Soundings , recreational representatives unsuccessfully
asked for the participation of tangata whenua, MFish science and
operations staff to be part of the discussions. It was important
to have these groups involved in any future discussions, without
their involvement progress was unlikely.
Ministry do not believe
the current framework provides for the aspirations of all interests
and are looking for criteria to assist MFish and the Minister in
his decision-making role.
It seems the Ministry
and Minister uses every opportunity they can to tout the QMS as
the world's leading fisheries management regime. This is particularly
galling to the recreational sector as we have many fisheries well
below what the legislation requires and therefore these fisheries
do not provide for our social, cultural and traditional needs.
It is not clear what the
fiscal constraints of this process are. We need to know what they
are before we can commit to involving ourselves in this Shared Fisheries
Policy Development process. Compensation has already been paid out
to commercial fishers during the introduction of the QMS, the Treaty
of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992 resulted in compensation
to Maori, it is unrealistic to expect a fiscally neutral solution
to recreational fishers' concerns.
Fisheries resources are
precious. If we have had some of our fish taken off us unjustly
then there may have to be a fiscal response to reverse that injustice,
if it can be clearly demonstrated.
The decision for proportional
reductions in snapper 8 could have been used as a case study had
the Ministry wanted to clarify the legal boundaries of when compensation
is due during a reallocation process.
MFish could have chosen
to reduce commercial catch only and leave the recreational allowance
at 360 tonnes. Under threat from industry that any reallocation
will be challenged in court, Ministry succumbed and reduced the
recreational allowance by 50 tonne. This was a missed opportunity
to clarify the law and would not have been hugely expensive exercise,
if proven wrong, considering the tonnage involved.
There is only one conclusion
we can draw from this scenario and that is that Ministry have no
intention of reallocating fish back to the recreational sector or
paying compensation to address past injustices.
Had the Ministry advised
the Minister of the true cause of the decline in SNA8 and the failure
to gain a rebuild then his decision could have been quite different.
Their failure to also advise on the conservation efforts of recreational
fishers, that over 26% of their catch had been conserved, was also
a mistake. The Ministry could easily have given the Minister one
option to rebuild that fishery, to cut commercial catch only. The
Ministry have not been fair in this process.
The public are clearly
demonstrating their concern for our fisheries by conserving fish
voluntarily. The SNA8 decision crushes any incentive to conserve
fish, as those efforts are not recognised during allocation processes.
Ministry personnel have acknowledged this lack of incentive at a
recent hui of the Hokianga Accord. This is a serious flaw in the
While Robin's objective
for this process is evident, we also need to be clear about what
the Ministry's objective is. Robin and the recreational sector need
to ask for, and receive, an unambiguous answer. The answer will
determine whether recreational representatives will continue to
participate in the policy development.
Both Robin and Lindie
Nelson are working through the analytical process to determine if
progress can be made, they do not have any pre-conceived ideas and
are open to suggestions from all sectors.
Recreational fishing representatives
would welcome the opportunity to meet again to discuss the Shared
Fisheries Policy Development process. An invitation was extended
to Robin to be at the next Hokianga Accord hui on the 6th and 7th
April to discuss the issue.
Collectively we have the
capacity to work through this issue with Ministry. We do not have
a lot of resources but are willing to get involved if the process
Conflict between sectors
is continually being promoted by the Ministry as being the reason
for the need to instigate a new allocation policy. Our conflict
is not with industry; it is with the Ministry and their flawed interpretation
of the law and implementation of the QMS. MFish perceive the conflict
as a conflict of interests.
It was surprising the
Ministry were prepared to conduct this process knowing full well
that the Kahawai Legal Challenge is due to be heard in the High
Court from June 6 th . Additionally, the December 2005 report 
given to the Minister did not mention the outcome of the case
could have implications for future fisheries management decisions.
The Ministry's willingness to continue without the benefit of a
decision from the judiciary was surprising.
Ministry were asked if
a policy definition of section 21 of the Fisheries Act 1996 existed.
We are well aware there are definitions for sections eight to thirteen
of the Fisheries Act. Along with a definition of section 21 representatives
also asked for the final report from project X, both documents were
made it very clear we were not interested in having our recreational
fishing rights integrated into a property rights regime such as
the QMS. Ministry do not have that ambition either.
Those at the meeting agreed
that another discussion with Robin would be beneficial. If we do
not continue to be involved in the development stage we run the
risk of not having our concerns included in the process as it moves
The Ministry's objectives
for this process needs to be clearly articulated, but haven't been
as yet. Recreational fishers need to be assured that the Ministry's
objectives are not the same as they had previously, to cap the recreational
catch and avoid compensation issues for the Crown. If they remain
the same then there is no point continuing to be a party to this
The option4 team have
been focussing their efforts on the allocation issue for the last
six years and cannot afford to have the message misinterpreted by
others. There is little faith that the Ministerial appointees to
the RFMAC or the regional recreational forums could deliver the
level of expertise required to have all recreational fishers concerns
Historic grievances had
been settled for commercial fishers at the introduction of the QMS,
for Maori through the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement
Act 1992, so this process needs to address grievances held by the
continue to argue over shares in a diminishing resource but, from
a recreational fishers perspective, it was advantageous to institute
changes that would contribute to the increased biomass of our shared
fisheries. There are many effective ways to reduce fishing related
mortality by all sectors, the framework to provide for these tools
need to be an outcome of this process.
Finally, the proposal
to use Fisheries Plans as a mechanism to implement management changes
is unrealistic if the allocation issue is not resolved fairly.
Overall, this was a positive
meeting and was an opportunity to present the perspective of recreational
fishers to the leader of the Shared Fisheries Policy Development
process. Another meeting will be convened within the next month
to continue discussions.
In the meantime the snapper
8 decision needs to be reviewed as it contains most of the concerns
option4 have about current management and the allocation process.
The documents requested also need to be analysed to inform the debate
as we go into the development phase of the public discussion document,
due for release at the end of June this year.
Common New Zealand Marine Fishes, 1998, C.Paulin.
Shared Fisheries Policy Development report, Ministry
of Fisheries 16 December 2005.