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option4 Update #39 FEBRUARY 2004

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NZ Fishing News Update #39
February 2004

Kahawai – Ministry claim “no scarcity”


The last really important inshore shared fishery, kahawai is to enter the QMS 1/10/04. For many of us non commercial fishers it forms the most important part of our catch. For many it is fishing at its finest, tourists love catching a kahawai. This is one species that all non commercial fishers have access to - from one end of the country to the other, both east and west coasts, off the wharf, in the harbour or out on the ocean. Kahawai is there for us all; sustenance, sport, customary Maori, the birds and, of course, all those commercial fishermen who legitimately target other species and catch kahawai as an unavoidable bycatch. We can not for one minute ignore those of us who have become accustomed to buying a well smoked kahawai at the fish shop or supermarket.

Setting of the TAC
The kahawai fishery is divided into six Quota Management Areas (QMA’s), four of which are important to non commercial and commercial fishers, QMA’s 1, 2, 3 & 8. The Minister must set a TAC for each area. His Ministry has advised him that the TAC should be the sum of “current utilisation”. i.e. add up what they guess we are catching, even if its nowhere near reality, and call it a TAC. How bizarre.

Political Decisions
The kahawai decisions are political, or so it would seem, given the absence of credible information and data in the Ministry’s Initial Position Paper (IPP). Six TAC setting decisions, 12 “allow for” decisions for non commercial and six allocations of TACC’s to industry. Each fishery has quite distinct issues and dynamics. The information the Ministry have based their advice on is both inadequate and contestable.

The kahawai was fished in equilibrium for many, many years. i.e. all sectors enjoyed good catch rates, good sized fish - abundance and availability seemed assured for all. It was only the advent of the target fishery for kahawai that saw that equilibrium destroyed. This is best illustrated in KAH3 with the almost total demolition of that fishery by purse seiners and spotter planes. Today, the KAH 3 commercial fishers have an annual purse seine catch limit of 1500 tonnes. They land a small fraction of that limit. In KAH1, the area north of East Cape, an area with over 2/3 of the population of New Zealand, industry have an annual purse seine catch limit of 1200 tonnes. For the last 3 years they have not been able to catch this, even though they are deploying the most sophisticated fishing methods man has yet to devise i.e. spotter planes in conjunction with purse seine vessels. In our opinion, there is no mana in using a spotter plane and a purse seiner to annihilate school after school of kahawai in order to sell them to very low value markets such as crayfish bait, pet food and fish meal.

How does value apply to these decisions? Cynical commercial exploitation by a very few industry players or an entire population and its guests appreciating food, fun and reward for their efforts?

Allocation - The Key Issue
Throughout their advice paper we see the Ministry advising their Minister to “set an allocation” of x tonnes for the non-commercial sectors, customary Maori and recreational. They base their recommendation for a recreational “allocation” on the average of two much contested estimates of what we catch. The Customary Maori “allocation” recommendation is based on the General Criteria established by the Ministry which, if followed, would see an “allocation” set equal to the recreational catch. However in this case Ministry recommend an allocation of half the recreational catch. Neither of these two recommendations bears any resemblance to what is actually being caught. If the “allocations” do not reflect our catch, what is their purpose? Could it be that at some time in the future the Ministry will try to constrain us to the “allocations set” that they are recommending. Remember, nowhere in the Fisheries Act does it say the Minister shall set an allocation for either the public or customary Maori non-commercial fishers. What it does say is that when setting (or varying) a Total Allowable Commercial Catch the Minister shall allow for non commercial fishers – not set an allocation as the Ministry have advised.

If the Minister’s allocation setting decision for the TACC is too high, we run the very real risk of Ministry (in 5 or 10 years) repeating the advice they offered their Minister on PAU 5D in 2002. Here, they claimed that the recreational catch should be constrained to their allowance in order to ensure that the catch being deducted from the PAU 5D TACC would not be caught by non commercials. Thankfully, the Minister ignored this advice and reduced the TACC which had been set too high initially.

No Scarcity?
The Ministry state in their advice paper (Para 34, page 73), “MFish notes that current levels of utilisation for all sectors combined can be accommodated within the proposed TAC’s. This suggests that currently there is no scarcity within the fishery and therefore no clear- cut requirement to consider reallocating the fishery between sector groups on the basis of utility value or any other considerations.” Try telling that to the non-commercial fishers in KAH1 and KAH3 whose CPUE has been so drastically slashed. Tell that to the thousands of people who enjoyed this incredible summer on the north east coast of New Zealand, few of whom had the pleasure of seeing a decent school of kahawai on the surface. Fact – they simply weren’t evident this summer. How dare the Ministry suggest there is “no scarcity” as they merrily cook the books to come up with this incredibly unscientific TAC recommendation?

Effectively Ministry contends there is no need to improve non-commercial access above current levels. Under the proposed management regime we could in fact see the stock size fall further and kahawai become scarcer and smaller.

Do they think they can get away with “managing” the demolition of the publics kahawai fisheries, claim there is no scarcity and then give away our kahawai, in perpetuity, to those they have permitted to wreck the carnage. We must stand as one and say NO.

The above concerns are but a fraction of the concerns we have with the Ministry’s advice. We have spent many hours working through the advice paper to rebut the Ministry’s perspectives. Space prevents us from detailing further concerns. Please read our full dissection and rebuttal.

We have put together a Background Information Package to assist in your understanding. More information is being added online as it comes to hand, please keep a watch on developments.

The submission deadline of 27th February applies to not only kahawai but 18 other species. We have requested an extension to the deadline in a letter to the Ministry. So far we have been offered a two week extension. option4 are still negotiating more time. It’s obvious we need more than the few weeks we have had since the 12th January to get out and deliver some credible process to demonstrate where the public stand with regards to one of our most important inshore shared fisheries. We strongly recommend you make a submission anyway. You might simply want to endorse the work that option4, NZRFC, NZBGFC and NZACA are doing on your behalf. A donation to assist our work would be appreciated.

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