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option4 Update #57 NZFN May 2005


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Public Lose Again in Fisheries Management

NZ Fishing News
May 2005

 

This article was originally published in the New Zealand Fishing News June 2005 edition.

Why is that when we catch one too many snapper the Ministry of Fisheries slam us with a $250 fine? When commercial fishers take thousands of excess tonnes the Ministry turn a blind eye and allow this to continue. Proof of this is in the west coast North Island snapper fishery (SNA8) where commercial quota has been exceeded 14 times over the past 17 years.

Continued mismanagement has seen snapper numbers decline to around half what there should be in the water. The Ministry seems to be unwilling to rebuild this fishery in the face of pressure from the commercial sector. This inaction is having a detrimental effect on recreational and customary Maori fishers who target snapper in Area 8.

 

Background

Rampant pair trawling in the 1970's impacted heavily on the snapper stock and it has only slowly recovered since hitting a low of around 3% of its original size (virgin biomass).   Currently the fishery is around half the size of what is required by law.

The 1996 Fisheries Act specifies fisheries should be managed at or above a level required to produce Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). This is usually considered to be around 20% of the virgin biomass. The Ministry have failed so badly in their management of this fishery that it is now twice as hard for people to catch a snapper on the west coast than if the fishery was at the MSY level.

 

Unconstrained Commercial Catch

When the Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced in 1986 commercial fishers were given a limit of how much fish they could extract from the SNA8 fishery. This limit is referred to as the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) and was set at 1330 tonnes.

Many fishers objected to the amount of quota they were given and appealed through the Quota Appeals Authority (QAA). Additional quota was allocated to these fishers.

Further to this, commercial fishers can land extra fish and pay a fee called deemed value. This value is set below what snapper is worth so the incentive to conserve fish is removed by the attraction of being able to profit from the sale of additional fish.

The following table shows the effects of the Ministry's inability to limit the commercial sector to a TACC since 1987-88. QAA decisions are included as these were not scientifically set and had no regard to sustainability.

Year

TACC

Catch

Deemed

Non-reporting

QAA*

1987

1383

1401

18

138.3

53

1988

1508

1526

18

150.8

178

1989

1594

1550

-44

159.4

224

1990

1594

1658

64

159.4

264

1991

1594

1464

-130

159.4

134

1992

1500

1543

43

150

170

1993

1500

1542

42

150

170

1994

1500

1434

-66

150

104

1995

1500

1558

58

150

170

1996

1500

1613

113

150

170

1997

1500

1589

89

150

170

1998

1500

1636

136

150

170

1999

1500

1604

104

150

170

2000

1500

1630

130

150

170

2001

1500

1577

77

150

170

2002

1500

1555

55

150

170

2003

1500

1666

166

150

170

           

Totals

25673

26546

873

2567.3

2827

           
           
     

Total Over catch (tonnes)

6267.3

*Quota Appeals Authority    

Had commercial catches been constrained to the initial 1330t TACC around 6000 tonnes less fish would have been caught since the 1987-88 fishing year. These fish would have done what fish do and just maybe, we would have a fishery at or above MSY right now.

 

Rebuild Decision

In response to mounting concerns a decision was made in 1998 to rebuild the fishery as part of a ten-year strategy. Ironically the TACC remained at 1500 t despite the effect the commercial catch was having on other fishers.

Our sector has contributed to this rebuild by accepting bag limits in 1985; these have been reduced twice since. The minimum size limit for snapper has been increased for non-commercial fishers only and the number of hooks on recreational longlines has been cut by 50%. What have the Ministry done to contribute? Nothing, apart from allowing the commercial overfishing to continue.

 

What can you do?

The Ministry is likely to publish management proposals in an Initial Position Paper (IPP) very soon and ask for public submissions. It is vital we are prepared to respond to their proposals and demand this overfishing stops, so we get the rebuild we have been waiting for.

 

The Truth

It will be a titanic battle to get the Ministry to act in our interests but they have to realise our catches have already been halved by the reduced numbers of fish in the water. This appalling situation cannot continue. The Minister needs to be very clear it will be a waste of time to come knocking on our door for cuts to bag limits when we have been fishing in a depleted fishery for so long. Let the responsibility lie where it belongs – Ministry and industry.

 

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