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SOI Article

Non-commercial Fishers Slam Ministry Paper

by Keri Molloy

19 June 2006

 

This article was originally published in The Bay Chronicle 19th June 2006

MFish fails to recognise the extent of amateur fishing carried out by New Zealanders says option4, a group lobbying to protect the rights of recreation fishers.

The Ministry of Fisheries is currently developing fisheries plans "to maximise the value obtained by New Zealanders from the nation's natural resources".

Responding to the Ministry's recently released Statement of Intent, option4 spokesman Scott Macindoe says basic information in the document is so flawed that it could be seen to have been written by commercial fishing interests rather than an independent body.

Out of frustration, option4 and other non-commercial fishing organisations intend working directly with the public and tangata whenua. They challenge MFish's data and asks for a breakdown, by fishery, of the annual 525,000 tonne commercial take: "MFish does itself no favours with their almost complete disdain for bodies such as the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, Option4 and the Hokianga Accord." The Ministry estimates that recreational fishers make up just 20 percent of the total NZ population. Mr Macindoe says this is a fundamental error.

"The true figure could be two or three times this figure... Why is the Ministry of Fisheries so reluctant to deal with the true extent of non-commercial fishing participation and benefit in New Zealand? As long as policy makers are working with such seriously flawed baseline information we, the public, have little chance of a fair go... We are an island nation, not a continent. Island nations fish for food." Mr Macindoe said MFish appeared to ignore the fact that key inshore fisheries were being managed below 'Bmsy' (biomass of fish in the water required to maintain maximum sustainable yield).

In summary, option4 says the MFish paper is difficult to understand, makes no meaningful reference to the need to rebuild fisheries to at or above Bmsy, contains nowhere near enough truth and context in framing non-commercial fishing interests, brushes aside statutory obligations and its allocation discussions are tortured and ambiguous.

In May Ministry officials met with the Hokianga Accord working group at Te Tii, regarding its plans for proportional allocation as a way of sharing the pain of rebuilding fish stocks.

The Hokianga Accord's stance is that when a fishery is depleted, through excessive commercial fishing, the required reduction in catch should be from the commercial take, not customary or recreational catch.

Concerns about local fisheries have been expressed by other bodies.

Last year Doubtless Bay Marine Protection Group voiced concerns about depletion of snapper numbers on the east coast - estimated to be only 16 percent of the original fish stock.

The group said there was a huge problem with dumping of unwanted bycatch and lower-valued fish. And a Kahawai legal challenge is set for the High Court this month.

Last year the Government decided to reduce the kahawai Total Allowable Catch (TAC) by ten percent, a move which was slated by the NZ Seafood Industry Council, which issued a counterclaim.

Non-commercial operators lodged an application to the High Court, hoping to define the public’s right to fish and ensure more fish are left in the sea. It is seen as a test case.

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