Fisheries - A House Built on Sand
piece by Bill Kirk
This article was
originally published in the New Zealand Fishing News May 2007 edition.
High Court decision in favour of recreational and Maori non-commercial
fishers found that the catch allowances for kahawai were unlawfully
set because the wellbeing of recreational fishers had not been properly
considered and/or allowed for. The Minister of Fisheries has been
directed to reconsider his kahawai decisions this year. The precedent
set by this ruling is applicable to all shared fisheries.
by the High Court also suggest that most, if not all, current recreational
allowances - the total tonnage taken by all recreational fishers
combined - may be equally unlawful because they were set in the
same erroneous way.
a public discussion paper produced by the Ministry of Fisheries
(MFish) promotes using the now unlawful recreational allowances
as baseline allocations under the guise of better integrating recreational
fishing with the Quota Management System (QMS) enjoyed by New Zealand's
an abundance of compelling evidence to show that the current recreational
allowances are flawed, inadequate and unsuitable for this purpose:
Crucial points, which MFish chose to hide or gloss over during the
Shared Fisheries consultation process.
continue with its blinkered implementation of Shared Fisheries
as proposed, the outcome could be catastrophic. Recreational
fishing as we know it will be sacrificed so MFish can dodge responsibility
for its mistakes and thereby avoid paying compensation. Furthermore,
it is near certainty that closed-fishing seasons, gear constraints,
stringent bag limit reductions and a raft of regulation changes
and reporting duties will need to be imposed on all recreational
fishers as a result.
recreational fishing licences - or some other compulsory levy –
will be essential to pay for the enormous bureaucracy and the multitude
of fisheries enforcement vessels and personnel required to constrain
a million recreational fishers to a fraction of their current catch.
Effectively, recreational fishers are being set up and will be punished
for problems MFish has created by giving preference to commercial
Did This Happen?
Clearly MFish has long since
abandoned the key principles upon which the QMS was founded. The
QMS was sold to the public on the understanding that commercial
fishers would be constrained to a sustainable harvest to allow fisheries,
which had been depleted by excessive commercial fishing, to rebuild.
Theoretically, this was to lead to a reduction in catching costs
for the fishing industry, sustainable fisheries and improved
customary and recreational fishing.
One – Inflated Commercial Quotas
In 1986 a
Quota Appeals Authority was set up to address claims from commercial
fishers and companies who were dissatisfied with their initial quotas.
The QAA quickly turned into a lolly scramble for valuable catching
rights, and within a couple of years many commercial quotas had
escalated to levels above what could be caught before the QMS was
In most cases
MFish chose to do nothing about the excessive commercial quotas
that exceeded their own scientists' best estimates of sustainable
catch. This rampant disregard for the rights of non-commercial fishers
has adversely affected customary and recreational fishers and has
prevented or slowed the rebuilding of many fisheries.
A more prudent
Ministry would have always constrained commercial catches to the
scientifically determined Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC).
Two – Tax Overfishing
fishers exceed their quotas they can pay a fee to the Government
to avoid prosecution. This mechanism is called deeming. While some
provision for overcatch is desirable, deeming creates a perverse
incentive as it allows the adverse effects on fisheries to be overlooked.
Turning a blind eye to the impact of deeming allows an income
stream for Government and additional profit for fishing companies.
At the same
time, MFish has ignored the impact of the excessive catches on customary
and recreational fishers. Chronic deeming in some fisheries causes
the quotas (already inflated by the QAA) to be exceeded by 50% or
more in some important shared fisheries every year.
Three – Use of Inaccurate Information
know that recreational allowances have been set incorrectly and
are too low in most cases. This problem stems from the difficulty
in accurately measuring the catch of a million recreational fishers.
Why then in the Shared Fisheries paper has MFish
pretended that the current recreational allowances are accurate?
Clearly they are not, and therefore not a suitable basis
on which to allocate future catching rights to recreational fishers.
argue ignorance or forgetfulness regarding their flawed recreational
allowances, because most recreational submissions over the past
six years have made exactly this point. The only conclusion that
can be drawn is that MFish has intentionally omitted this crucial
information purely to mislead recreational fishers who took the
time to submit to Shared Fisheries , thus making
Mfish' preferred policy proposals look far more attractive than
they actually are. For example, those supporting the proposals would
not realise that their catch limits would possibly be halved in
for the deceit is obvious: MFish has completely botched the implementation
of the QMS through its laissez faire attitude to constraining
commercial catches, and in estimating and ‘allowing for' non-commercial
catch. Why doesn't MFish just admit the truth? How can the public
be expected to trust a Ministry that is not open and honest about
mistakes it has made?
Fisheries paper is not about improving recreational fishing
rights. It's about the Government avoiding compensation, reducing
recreational catch and pretending that recreational fishers are
Shared Fisheries seeks to diminish the strength of the
recreational fishing right. The kahawai judgment shows very clearly
that all New Zealanders have a well-founded and time-honoured right
to fish in the sea. This is not the same as the right MFish has
It is MFish
that has to change its policy toward recreational fishing through
giving effect to the law, not the other way around. Don't let MFish
take your rights away.
have easily put its Shared Fisheries consultation
on hold and given the court the opportunity to clarify the nature
and extent of the public's right to fish in the sea. In this respect
MFish has put its policy at risk and now have to recognise that
it has made serious errors. In their haste to push through the Shared
Fisheries policy MFish has not only misinformed all those
who submitted but also disregarded the law.
once said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness
that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” The
MFish approach to resolving the shared fisheries issues it has created
proves the truth of those words.
The big question
is can we trust MFish to implement the Fisheries Act properly, or
will it continue with the unlawful shared fisheries allocation policy
it has constructed and change the Act to match the
Your current rights dictate
that you can:
Demand the current
Fisheries Act be correctly and lawfully observed as per the
Demand that nothing
in the Fisheries Act related to recreational fishing be altered
before all recreational allowances are lawfully reset
Demand that the Shared
Fisheries policy be put on hold until better information
on recreational catch is available.
that your views are taken into account. Visit www.option4.co.nz
to read the comprehensive response to the Shared Fisheries
proposals in "The
People's Submission" and send your message directly to
the Ministry of Fisheries.
many recreational fishers see the outcome as an outright win,
most recreational leaders involved in the case are concerned
that MFish will use the current Shared Fisheries
review of recreational fishing rights to remove or undermine
the strong fishing rights contained in the current Fisheries
Act. The court has determined that all New Zealanders currently
enjoy these rights.
clarity of the judgment, MFish policy seemed dismissive when addressing
the annual TOKM fisheries conference in Napier where it was stated
that the ruling was “not helpful” in sorting out the respective
allocations between commercial and recreational fishers. A recent
article in the Independent stated that one of MFish' objectives
in Shared Fisheries is to reduce the recreational catch.
Readers may also remember the scampi case, where MFish pleaded in
court that it was not their job to be fair. The judge disagreed,
but MFish don't seem to have learnt much from that exercise.
offered to recreational fishers in the Shared Fisheries
reforms is a package worth $3-million to establish an Amateur Fishing
Trust. But anyone wanting to play a part should be aware that they
must comply with Government's objectives in order to be appointed.
Only lapdogs need apply.
fishers could lose in the order of $100 million dollars worth of
catching rights if the Shared Fisheries proposals are
implemented. What a swap! We give up $100 million for a ‘Trust'
worth nothing staffed by poodles? I don't think so.
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