Minister's kahawai decisions have ignited intense debate amongst
recreational fishers. With such unprecedented levels of public awareness
these decisions always had the potential to be controversial. After
extensive discussions the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council (NZBGFC),
the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (NZRFC) and option4
have all agreed that the allocation decisions for kahawai made by
the Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope, are so unjust that
they must be challenged in the High Court.
the objectives of going to Court
The objective of the challenge
is to ensure the kahawai fisheries can rebuild to an abundance and
availability that allows non-commercial fishers a good chance of
catching a reasonable bag (limit) of decent sized kahawai.
are the Minister's decisions regarded as being so unjust?
- These decisions are not designed to rebuild the fisheries –
they are designed to lock us in to a proportional share while
the fishery is at its lowest ever point and recreational catches
are correspondingly at an all time low. And still the Ministry
insists there is "no scarcity".
- The decisions call for a 15% reduction in catch by both commercial
and recreational fishers. This effectively means that recreational
catch is to be cut by 600 tonnes per annum while commercial fishers
will, believe it or not, be allowed to catch 140 tonnes (5%) more
per annum than they have managed to catch over the last few years
– even after the (so called) 15% reduction in their allocation.
- Kahawai, the second most important species to non-commercial
fishers is being managed on a knife edge. Totally inadequate information
to base decisions upon. A high risk management strategy which
condemns kahawai to being fished like so many other species i.e.
to the commercially driven "Maximum Sustainable Yield"
– a strategy that has not worked for the fishing industry
when applied to the finfish species most important to them.
- Most of the quota issued to commercial fishers will go to the
handful of fishing companies who chose to use purse seiners, often
assisted by spotter planes, to target kahawai in a "race
to establish catch history" in the late 80's and early 90's.
Tens of thousands of tonnes of kahawai were annihilated, much
of which was sold for very low returns to export customers such
as the Australian crayfish bait market. This senseless slaughter
broke the back of the kahawai stocks at the direct expense of
non-commercial fishers catch rates.
- Many commercial fishers who take kahawai as an unavoidable by-catch
are now obliged to try to rent quota from these companies. If
they can't lease the quota and the deemed values are set higher
than the port price on offer then dumping could become a threat
to the sustainable management of the fisheries.
on those who catch kahawai for food
The Minister states in
his decision letter - "I note that setting an allowance
for recreational fishing less than the current level of use
will require adopting other management measures to achieve this.
A reduction in the daily bag limit per person is
the most likely outcome, however MFish will provide me
with further advice following consultation with recreational fishing
interests on how best to achieve the required restraint
on recreational catches."
If "reduction of the
daily bag limit per person " is used to achieve the 15% restraint
decided upon, the cuts will need to be severe. Very few people catch
anywhere near the bag limit. Those that do need a bag limit often
depend on kahawai to feed their families with fish. They typically
fish off the beach or from small boats in sheltered waters. These
people will bear the full brunt of any reductions in our bag limit
and will have food taken from their dinner tables. So, while we
struggle to give effect to the need to reduce our catch by 15% the
fishing industry are scheming how to catch an extra 5% - how bizarre!!
It is Maori who have such
a rich history of harvesting kahawai to manaaki manuhiri i.e. to
give hospitality to their visitors. The ability to do this sustains
tribal mana. As fisheries managers move to constrain recreational
catch by 15% it is Maori who stand to lose the most - physically,
spiritually and psychologically.
Before the Minister sets
the commercial catch, he must allow for non-commercial fishing interests
including both recreational and customary Maori fishing interests.
This is required by statute. The interests of recreational and customary
Maori non-commercial fishers coincide to a great extent.
The well documented traditional
catches of kahawai by Maori at river mouths such as the Motu River
will only recover if more fish are left in the sea.
We also ask, what good is
exercising non-commercial customary fishing rights (or recreational
fishing rights) if entire schools of kahawai are "missing in
action" having been fed to Australian crayfish?
claims are we going to make in Court?
We intend that our lawyers
issue proceedings to review the Minister of Fisheries' decisions
allocating quota for the kahawai species. It is envisaged that the
legal proceedings issued will seek declaratory and other relief
to set aside the Minister's decisions for the kahawai species for
2004, and for future years.
The proceedings will contend,
among other things, that the Minister's 2004 decisions are wrong
in law, including claims that the Minister's decisions:
- Fail to allow for non-commercial interests by recognising that
such interests have to be "allowed for" before determining
- Fail to allow for non-commercial fishing interests, by allocating
the TACC on the basis of catch history depleted by purse seine
- Fail to consider the cause and effect of fishing upon this important
non-commercial species, in particular, the effects of the purse
seining method of catching whole schools of kahawai.
- Fail to recognise likely imbalances in quota management for
non-purse seine commercial fishers caused by allocation of a large
percentage of the TACC to the purse seine fleet.
you help and contribute?
The option4, NZBGFC and NZRFC
teams have already invested thousands of man hours to develop the
challenge to this stage. We have spent more than $50,000 on legal
advice, assembling affidavits and gathering of evidence.
NZBGFC and NZRFC have signed
off on Engagement Terms with our lawyers. We are lucky to have Hesketh
Henry Lawyers representing us with such commitment and belief. They
have agreed to generous terms to prosecute what they regard as an
essential and winnable legal challenge. We estimate court and legal
costs to be at least $200,000. The costs of mounting the public
awareness campaign will also be considerable.
Over the last six weeks Don
Glass, the Campaign Manager, has assembled a powerful and committed
team of professionals, all of whom have agreed to help at discounted
NZBGFC have contributed seed
funding of $25,000 with option4 adding another $10,000. The balance
of the money required has only one source – you, the non-commercial
fisher who cares about the ability of our children to experience
the joy of catching a kahawai and bringing it home to feed the family.
How much do YOU value this most fundamental part of being a New
More importantly, please
consider giving some of your time and energy. We are searching for
PEOPLE willing to contribute as we say "Stop this Madness
help is desperately needed
People who truly value their
ability to catch a kahawai. Dial 0800 KAHAWAI (524 292) or email
(preferably) Don at email@example.com.
The Support Pack will be mailed to you immediately. The booklet
and cover letter will help explain the issues. Then it's up to you
to canvass friends and family, people at the ramp or workmates.
If you are not available
to help in this direct manner, please give generously by:
- Sending your cheque to us, the Kahawai Challenge Fund c/o NZ
Fishing News PO Box 12-965 Penrose, Auckland. More
details here » »
- Dial 0900 KAHAWAI (524 292) to contribute $20. This will simply
be debited to your phone account. Don't make the mistake of only
- Register to receive regular Updates
on the Challenge progress.