fish? There Are No Fish
the Hokianga Accord
This article was originally
written for the New Zealand Fishing News August 2008 edition.
ago people in the north could always rely on catching a
few kahawai to feed our mokopuna, but not anymore.
one generation kahawai have gone from being abundant and
a staple part of our diet to being just another bait in
a West Australian craypot or exported as cat food.
issue has been talked about for the past three years at Hokianga
Accord hui and, in light of the recent Court of Appeal kahawai
decision, it will continue to be an agenda item for some time
value kahawai above many other fish, snapper included. Kahawai
is great for using in raw fish and a hot, smoked kahawai is
Kahawai are also an important part of the food-chain so it
is a major concern that fish numbers have declined so much.
people do not even go to the beach anymore because it is not
worth the effort or the fuel costs.
year our whanau from Taheke, halfway between Kaikohe and Opononi,
provided the following feedback to the Ministry of Fisheries’
Shared Fisheries proposals that sought to limit people’s
catch of fish,
1998 we would go fishing once a month, depending on our
Maramataka/Maori calendar. The fishing was good back then
as we traditionally performed our karakia on arrival and
departure and always cast the first fish back.
Fishing was a great time for whanaungatanga/relationships,
kotahitanga/togetherness and wairuatanga/spirituality. Much
meditation and sense for Kaitiakitanga/environmental welfare
would determine our prosperity into the future.
Because we are in-landers it was usually a weekend occasion.
We would always check the weather before leaving home for
our 60-kilometre journey.
Unfortunately the numbers of fish we catch today are very
poor and we have been forced to either buy our fish or go
to the east coast, when we can afford it.
Every year we have noticed a marked decline of catch. In
1999 we were catching on average 30 fish, mainly kahawai,
between four fishermen. By 2006 the average had reduced
to five fish.
We accept catching one fish is a blessing. But there is
something terribly wrong out there in the moana and suspect
we are suffering the impact of commercial fishing in the
area. What else could it possibly be?
Now the government is proposing to limit our catch as customary
and recreational non-commercial fishermen, we ask WHAT
FISH? THERE ARE NO FISH.”
Far from being a recreation,
fishing has become a necessary weekly event to put food on
the table but the Taheke example proves there is little point
spending money to go fishing if there is no food to bring
The Hokianga Accord’s concerns are not just about the
sustainability of our fish and the environment but also being
able to teach our mokopuna how to fish using traditional methods.
The sooner we reach our goal of “more fish in the water/kia
maha atu nga ika ki roto i te wai” the better off all
our people will be.
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