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THIRD REFERENCE GROUP MEETING


Reference Group - 3rd Meeting

12 March 2003


The Reference Group consists of individuals from option4, the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council (NZBGFC) and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (NZRFC). This group was formed after a meeting with the Minister of Fisheries in December 2002. It was an attempt to progress the reform of recreational fishing. The process involved representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries and the recreational sector working through documents and trying to find a workable solution to resolve the outstanding issues for the recreational sector including the 4 principles.

Notes of issues discussed and decisions made.

Present:

Amateur fishers (AF):

Officials (O):

Paul Barnes
Stan Crothers
Trish Rea
Mark Edwards
Jason Foord
Peter Cole
Bill Cooke  
Ross Gildon  
Geoff Rowling  
Keith Ingram  
Richard Baker  
Jeff Romeril  


The meeting commenced at approximately 10.30am at the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club.

There were two main agenda items:

  • Notes of the 19 February meeting and matters arising from this meeting;
  • Further discussion on the development of reform options consistent with the constraints set out in the Minister of Fisheries letter of 21 January 2003 and the principles set out in the joint letter dated 8 December 2002.


Notes from the last meeting

Notes from the 19 February meeting were accepted.

Actions arising from (or still outstanding at) the last meeting:

Request
Action
Officials to provide a list of the quota transferred to Maori as part of the interim settlement. Referred to Service Delivery within the Ministry for action. Still under action
Officials to provide a paper setting out where the right to fish for food came from, how (and at what point) this right to fish became eroded and subservient to other statutory rights and obligations. Revised paper submitted by email on 10 March.
Officials to provide a list of taiapures and mataitai reserves and locations. Draft response provided by email on 11 March.
Officials to send out draft meeting notes within three working days of the meeting and finalised meeting notes within two working days of any corrections being received. Finalised meeting notes sent out by email on 10 February.
Officials to provide a paper setting out the fishery management structures and processes relating to amateur fishing in a range of Australian states. Paper submitted by email on 10 March.
Officials to provide a paper on the fishery management regime change implemented through the Fisheries Amendment Act 1990. Paper submitted by email on 10 March.
Amateur fishers to provide a paper on right to fish for sustenance purposes based on international agreements. Paper submitted by email on 9 March.


The paper explaining the changes to the fishery management regime implemented in the Fisheries Amendment Act 1990 was discussed. Officials briefly outlined the contents of the paper noting that the changes had been carried out to place better incentives on the commercial sector to fish sustainably and to remove from the Crown the risks arising from the year by year variability in fish stock numbers. They noted that the Minister’s obligation to allow for non-commercial interests in the fishery before setting the commercial catch allowance remained unaltered although the changes to legislation made the expression of the allowance more specific. A discussion followed on the allocations between commercial and non commercial fishers. AF expressed the view that restraint shown by the amateur sector on previous occassions had not been subsequently reflected in increased allocations although the commercial sector had received increased allocations. AF used the recent SNA2 to illustrate where a recent initial Ministry allocation advice hadn’t reflected the amateur fisher contribution to the recovery in the fishery.

Point of Agreement
It was agreed that all groups (commercial and non-commercial) needed certainty of outcome from the fishery management allocation process and this was most likely to come from explicit allocation criteria. These criteria should include an obligation to consider the role played by each group in the decline or recovery of the fishery and to reflect that in the final allocation decision made.

AF stated at the time the 1990 amendment came into force that introduced the proportional basis to the ITQ allocation within the TACC, the Ministry began to apply the same “proportional” system across all of the allocations within the TAC even though there was no statutory basis for doing so. This lead into a discussion of how these proportional allocations appeared to only operate when it came to reducing allowances but not to an increase in allowance. SNA2 was used as an example by AF to demonstrate this. Officials didn’t comment on the SNA2 decision but indicated that the concerns over SNA2 suggested that amateur fishers needed a better defined fishing right and explicit allocation criteria in legislation. This would enable amateur fishers to better protect their own interests without having to rely on the Crown to advocate amateur fishers interests in the decision making process.

This lead into further discussion on allocation criteria including the need for the value of the fish to amateur and commercial fishers to be taken into account in any allocation decision. Kingfish was used as an example of a species that research suggested was more valuable nationally in amateur hands. The importance of fishing for sustenance was discussed. AF felt this was a factor that needed to be acknowledged in any allocation decision.

Point of Agreement
It was agreed that the value of the fish to each sector, using a wide definition of value, be a factor considered in allocation decisions.

SNA2
AF considered that the SNA2 decision demonstrated many weaknesses with current fishery management. It wasn’t clear why SNA2 had to be reviewed at all. There appeared to be no relationship between the recreational allowance and bag limits. Information that was available to the Ministry about the level of the amateur harvest hadn’t been used even though the Ministry was in possession of information that seriously challenged the credibility of the information it chose to use as the basis for its recommendations on the recreational allowance. AF expressed the view that bag limits really weren’t the issue. Amateur fishers were more interested in their ability to catch fish. Officials indicated the review had arisen from the AMP programme proposed to apply for SNA2. Information was always going to be a difficulty particularly with regard to the non-commercial catch. Not only were there difficulties with surveying techniques but surveys represented a snap shot of the harvest in a particular time period that may or may not be representative of the amateur harvest AF suggested such fisheries needed to be managed over a longer period of time to mitigate short term fluctuations due to environmental conditions, access to the fishery due to bad weather etc. Officials indicated sustainability reviews were generally undertaken on an exception basis. Reviews of the TAC/TACC were generally undertaken where assessments indicated sustainability issues with current harversts, or surplus yield, or information suggesting some other substantial change to the circumstances in the fishery. [During this discussion the issue of the harvesting of red snapper and associated impacts was discussed. It was agreed that officials would provide details of the red snapper catch by method and by area over the last ten years.]

The paper circulated by AF on the right to fish to harvest food was discussed. AF considered that the Ministry did not acknowledge adequately the importance of fishing for food by amateur fishers. This had been important to New Zealanders irrespective of culture since the settlement of New Zealand. There were dangers that those who fished for food would be ignored or forgotten in any proportional allocation system. AF considered Government was abdicating its responsibility to protect the poorest in our community if it did not adequately acknowledge and protect this right. AF felt the Government was ignoring its international obligations because treaties to which it was a party provided for such rights. Moyle’s promise acknowledged the importance of fishing for food in acknowledging the need to have regard to the impact of commercial fishing on the ability of small communities to harvest food.

Officials indicated that this issue had been addressed in the occasional papers . Treaties and covenants such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR] (and supporting guidance protocols such as the Maastricht Guidelines and the Limburg Principles) didn’t create specific rights for New Zealanders in relation to fishing. In New Zealand only Parliament or the Courts could do this. New Zealander’s enjoyed a common law right to fish irrespective of the purpose. The Crown had imposed restrictions on this right to benefit the community as a whole through ensuring the sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries. Article four of ICESCR expressly provided for such acts by sovereign parliaments. Officials didn’t accept that the present arrangements were either infringing or were inconsistent with the Crown’s international obligations.

The issue of New Zealanders not being able to afford to buy locally caught fish because it is priced on “export markets” was raised. Officials suggested the experience from previous Governments that had attempted to intervene in markets to achieve lower prices suggested that the community bore the costs of such actions in lowered economic efficiency and foregone employment and other economic opportunities. It was accepted that the Government was unlikely to subsidize New Zealanders to purchase fish nor would it impose controls to limit exports. AF suggested that the availability of a species to non-commercial fishers be used as a criteria in allocation decisions.

The paper on the where the right to fish for food came from, how (and at what point) this right to fish became eroded and subservient to other statutory rights and obligations was discussed. Officials acknowledged that the drivers for legislative change back in 1908 were now unclear but that there should be a presumption that parliament had acted to benefit the community as a whole rather than any particular group.

The group discussed the taiapures and mätaitai paper. AF expressed concern over the fact that despite the passage of ten years no regulations for taiapures had yet appeared. AF speculated as to whether this might be indicative of a likely outcome of any special recreational fishing right. Officials indicated that the regulation process established quite high requirements for the local committees to meet and that many did not have the resources to do so. There were other reasons as well including the difficulty many iwi had in establishing boundaries with neighbouring iwi, and a focus on the allocation and distribution of the settlement process. For these reasons mätaitai were now the preferred arrangement.

The paper setting out the fishery management structures and processes relating to amateur fishing in a range of Australian states was discussed. Amateur fishers are well organised and are more directly involved in the management of their fisheries in Australia particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. A number of Australian states either have or are considering licensing marine amateur fishing. Part of this funding has been used in NSW and Victoria to fund the buy back of commercial fishing rights thus establishing commercial free fishing areas. This lead into a discussion of licensing and how amateur fishers might fund their ongoing involvement in fishery management. A diverse range of AF views emerged. These included:

  • The Australian experience wasn’t relevant to New Zealand because fishing for food isn’t as important in Australia as here. Officials didn’t accept this argument pointing out that nearly 4/5ths of the Australian population lived close to the coast. A survey undertaken by the Ministry on amateur fishers motivations for going marine fishing in NZ strongly suggested that the motivation to go fishing was more complex than only fishing for food ;
  • Amateur fishers noted that the Crown had compensated commercial fishers for the cancellation of quota on several earlier occasions and thought it unlikely AF would agree to funding the buy back of ITQ from commercial fishers as had occurred in Australia;
  • The Crown might use any funds generated from amateur fishers to fund the consolidated account. Officials indicated in Australia that the funds collected from amateur fishers went directly into specials trust accounts administered by amateur fishers. The funds could only be used for the purposes allowed in the trust deeds;
  • The amateur right to fish needed to be defended. This requires representational (peak) bodies and funding. Amateur fishers need an autonomous source of funding ;
  • Amateur fishers could improve their input into fishery management (and achieve better outcomes for amateur fishers) by contracting independent fishery advice but this required money. This could either be resourced voluntarily or through some sort of levy. Voluntary fund raising was likely to divert time and resources away from the key business of improving the management of recreational fisheries;
  • Government could fund amateur fisher involvement in fishery management but there was a risk that overtime these funds might be slowly withdrawn leaving amateur fishers to fund their new fishery management responsibilities;
  • Funding models such as Yachting New Zealand (where it was free to sail but a levy was paid if you wanted to race) or Fish and Game existed;
  • Need to address problem that the present effort on behalf of amateur fishers comes from a few committed individuals (with the rest in effect being free riders).
  • Reference group members had no mandate from amateur fishers to consider anything that might eventually commit amateur fishers to funding via a levy or licensing;
  • It was governments role to look after the interests of amateur fishers and their fisheries;
  • If amateur fishers were to be more involved in managing their fisheries there was an absolute need to rectify previous injustices before doing so, and
  • Amateur fishers needed to identify the risks in being more actively involved in fisheries management (as in Australia).

Point of Agreement
It was agreed amateur fishers needed resources to be better represented in fishery management processes.


Officials indicated that there are a range of options for managing recreational fisheries. For example these could be managed at a central government level (the outcomes of which amateur fishers had expressed considerably dissatisfaction about ) or at regional government level (as is the case with aquaculture) or by amateur fishers themselves. It was clear that the issue of amateur fishers being more closely involved in management and how this might be funded as an issue wasn’t going to be resolved today. It might take many years to do so. It might be better to look at the issue of reforming the recreational fishing right as a series of discreet stages that would require debate and examination, discussion and perhaps might not be proceeded with.

Initially, it might be best to focus on those areas where there was a degree of consensus, such as the need for explicit allocation criteria, and focus on producing a paper for the Minister on these issues. It might be that what was proposed in these papers wouldn’t be accepted by the Minister either in whole or in part and might need to be modified but this was the first stage which any proposal would need to go through. Officials noted that the time frame for the reform work initially discussed with the reference group was based on any legislative changes being considered by Parliament in 1994. This was still an important deadline. This suggested that a more limited reform proposal (requiring legislative change) would still need to be developed, public consultation held, and Cabinet approval obtained this year. It was agreed a 4 member working group be established (two officials and two amateur fishers) to produce a paper for consideration at the next reference group meeting on 3 April. This paper might form the basis of a paper to go to the Minister outlining a reform proposal. The paper should identify the elements of a reform option, identify those elements on which a degree of consensus existed and to give expression to those elements, identify those elements on which further discussion and consensus building was required, and a process for promoting this. It was suggested the working group would be more effective if its members were also Reference Group members. [AF agreed to provide officials with the names of their representatives on the working group.]

Development of reform options

This discussion picked up from a debate on the Talking Points paper circulated at the 18 February meeting. AF were asked to elaborate how a priority right would operate in a situation where stock assessment suggested the TAC should be cut. AF indicated there was a clear need to have a defined starting point-one that addressed previous injustices and was fair to all parties. There was a need to examine the science of the fishery assessment. AF were of the view that in recent years assessments had become more optimistic (because their presence had fallen off somewhat). AF considered that if a model used in the assessment process was unsustainable using the new catch information then the TAC needed to be re-examined. It might be necessary AF thought to put a range of options to amateur fishers including gear restrictions and bag limitations. AF considered that it was up to AF to decide what the most appropriate actions were to manage the fishery. If AF decided that bag limitations had gone too far and no longer were capable of sustaining adequate food harvesting then the priority would be activated. In these circumstances the commercial allocation would be cut

Point of Agreement
It was agreed that it was desirable an independent and credible scientific process be used to support fishery management decisions and that non-commercial groups needed to be involved and have independent access to this scientific process.

Process

Officials raised the issue of whether the meetings held to date were useful from the perspective of amateur fishers and whether there was any commitment to continuing a process of seeking reform of the amateur fishing right. AF indicated this largely depended on whether and how their views were picked up in the paper being produced by the working group and any subsequent papers.

Officials indicated that they would shortly have to prepare a paper to the Minister advising him on progress to date. AF indicated they had already been in contact with the Minister and amongst other matters advised him that the meetings were useful.

The meeting concluded at 4.00pm.

Agreed Actions

Officials undertook to provide details of the commercial red snapper catch by method and area over the past ten years.

Amateur fishers agreed to nominate two representatives on the proposed working group.

The working group will meet and prepare a report for circulation prior to the 4 April meeting, identifying:

  • the elements of a reform option;
  • those elements on which a degree of consensus exists (and to give expression to those elements); and
  • those elements on which further discussion and consensus building was required and a process for promoting this.

Minutes of other Reference Group meetings here »

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