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option4 Update #59 NZFN June 2005


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More Fish in the Water

NZ Fishing News
June 2005

 

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

One of the highlights of being involved in the hui with Ngapuhi and other non-commercial fishing interests (reported in last months NZ Fishing News) was the realisation that we all wanted the same thing – more fish in the water. To achieve this we need to take less fish out of the sea.

In many important inshore shared fisheries the vast majority of commercial catch is exported. Meanwhile non-commercial fishers, both recreational and customary Maori, are struggling to catch a reasonable daily bag to feed their families.

Current Management

Current fisheries management fails to constrain commercial catch within the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) in many of our important shared fisheries. These catch limits were set to a "sustainable" level to ensure we all had a reasonable chance of catching a fish. Snapper 8 is one example in a list of many mismanaged fish stocks.

Snapper

Last month we discussed the overcatch of snapper on the west coast of the North Island, area 8. In SNA8 the TACC has been exceeded 14 times over the past 18 years. In area 2, from East Cape and down past Wellington the scenario is worse. Over 1400 tonnes of excess snapper have been taken from this fishery since the Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced. The reported catch peaked in 1991 when the TACC was overcaught by a massive 234%. In area 1, the most popular fishing area in the country (from North Cape to Cape Runaway), the reported catch exceeded the TACC six times over the same period. Who knows how much snapper was dumped as fishers high graded their catch to make the most of their quota or how many 100,000's of undersize snapper were killed by trawl nets, set nets or longlines?

All this adds up to the failure of the Ministry of Fisheries to control overfishing to the detriment of non-commercial fishers. Commercial fishers can land fish in excess of their quota but they have to pay a fee called deemed value. As long as this fee is paid the extra catch is considered legal. MFish and successive Ministers have disregarded the effects this excess catch has had on recreational and customary fishers ability to harvest fish. Worse still our future generations will have less to enjoy.

Quota Management System

When the QMS was introduced in 1986 it was "sold" to non-commercial fishers as a mechanism that would control commercial catch. Commercial harvest was causing many fisheries to decline and some inshore species were seriously depleted. So the QMS was promoted as being the answer to the concerns regarding declining fish numbers.

Moyle's Promise

At the same time the QMS was introduced the Labour Government had formulated a policy that clearly gave preference to non-commercial fishers, us. It was also confirmed in the 1989 National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries. Colin Moyle was Fisheries Minister at the time and he made the following statement, which we refer to as Moyle's Promise –

Government's position is clear, where a species of fish is not sufficiently abundant to support both commercial and non-commercial fishing, preference will be given to non-commercial fishing. This position reflects Government's resolve to ensure all New Zealanders can enjoy and benefit from our fisheries.

 

So what happened between 1986 and 2005? Where has our preference gone? Ministry has responded to our questions relating to Moyle's Promise by saying the policy was never passed by Cabinet and therefore was not official policy. Could have fooled us, the statement quite plainly says, "Government's position is clear." That's one of the most transparent statements we have had from any government.

Non-commercial fishers gave agreement to the QMS on the understanding that:

 

  • The promised preference would be applied,
  • The management of our fisheries would be improved, and
  • If there still weren't enough fish for everyone, the people of this country would be given
    preference to fish for food over the commercial sectors ability to export fish.

Or in the case of kahawai, not to have fish taken from our tables and exported for Australian crayfish bait. This is not right or fair.

The Future

Extracting the last possible fish from our waters will not satisfy the increasing worldwide demand for fresh seafood. What we need is sensible management of our fisheries so everyone has a decent chance to go out and catch a fish for dinner and more importantly so our kids have the opportunity to enjoy what the sea offers.

The promise to give us preference has not been honoured. We have had enough of broken promises and mismanagement of our precious inshore fisheries.

The opportunity to work closely with Ngapuhi since the April hui has revealed many common frustrations of dealing with government departments who do not have the public's interest at heart. What is encouraging is Ngapuhi's drive to arrange another hui, this time it will include MFish. The hui will be focused on how to achieve our common objective of more fish in the water.

We are still developing the process on how we will work together to achieve the common goal of having more fish in the water but it is encouraging to get alongside people with likeminded interests. What can be better than –

"Kia maha atu nga ika i roto te wai"

More fish in the water

 

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