Overview of the Soundings Document
Three broad options are offered in the Soundings
Document produced by the Joint Working Group made up of Ministry
of Fisheries staff and NZ Recreational Fishing Council participants.
individual components of each option can be mixed to provide a hybrid,
however, most are incompatible. All of the options as they stand
appear to be seriously flawed. All of the options allow the Government
to escape its responsibility to provide for the needs of future
generations of recreational fishers. All of the options present
serious and unacceptable risks to current and future recreational
fishers rights to catch a reasonable bag of fish.
Summary of Options
The three Soundings Document options are:
- Discretionary Share (the current system)
- Proportional Share (a fixed share of the available yield)
- Recreational Management (Proportional share and management control)
The Soundings document insists that all options and proposed solutions
need to be compatible with very strong rights already given to Maori
Customary fishers and the Quota Management System (QMS) and be within
sustainability and Treaty obligations previously set by Government.
Herein lies the first problem. The rights Government
has already created for Maori Traditional and Commercial fishers
ignore the rights and needs of future generations of recreational
fishers. Recreational fishers were not consulted adequately on the
creation of either of the above rights, nor were the serious effects
caused by prior Commercial over fishing of recreationally important
species rectified. Recreationally important fisheries not included
in the QMS continue to be developed by Commercial fishers despite
prior recreational claims to them. (e.g. Kahawai, Kingfish and Broadbill)
Any growth in the above rights (marine farms, increased Total Allowable
Commercial Catches (TACC's) or increased Traditional harvest) will
further erode the recreational share.
Reductions in the rights of Commercial or Traditional Harvesters
that become necessary to provide for future increases to Recreational
harvest levels as population increases will require compensation
from the crown. We should have little sympathy for the Crown's position.
Not only did the crown forget to allow for future generations of
recreational fishers in 1986 when it gave perpetual fishing rights
to commercial fishers free of charge, it has since gone on to strengthen
those rights and further weaken the recreational position.
Maori Traditional interests objected to the obvious erosion of their
rights and were rewarded with an uncapped and largely unconstrainable
Traditional right. Our arguments are no different than those offered
by Maori. If we do not argue for a similar right, not only do we
commit a major injustice against future recreational fishers whose
individual rights will diminish forever, we add fuel to the simmering
racial problems that can only worsen as individual recreational
fishing rights diminish through population increases while Maori
rights increase for the same reason. Suggestions that recreational
fishers purchase back these rights through licensing, or leasing
our Quota to Commercial fishers, as suggested in "Soundings",
is abhorrent and contrary to natural justice.
Options 2 & 3
The Soundings document promotes solutions that allow the Government
to escape from its obligations to provide for recreational fishing
by suggesting in Option 2 and Option 3 that the recreational sector
accept a proportional share in each fishery, and future increases
in recreational fishing demand through population increases, be
purchased from other users by recreational fishers.
This assumes that the recreational and commercial sectors are compatible
and can agree to a harvest strategy to maximise yield from the fishery
for the benefit of both in all shared fisheries.
No evidence to support this ideology exists.
The commercial sector always prefers to harvest at the highest possible
level of catch and will accept the associated higher risk attached
to this strategy.
For example, orange roughy fisheries on the Chatham Rise were seriously
depleted during the 1990's through commercial over fishing, massive
quota cuts resulted. Recently newly discovered orange roughy stocks
on the East Coast of the North Island suffered the same fate. Quota
cuts of 90% are now proposed as being necessary to save this once
valuable East Coast fishery. The Fishing Industry obviously learned
little from the Chatham Rise orange roughy debacle. Incidentally,
these were among the most valuable fisheries ever in New Zealand.
If we imagine recreational fishers fished orange roughy and had
a 50% share in the orange roughy fishery as is proposed under Options
2 and 3, our proposed rights would be worthless. If the same thing
happened with snapper under the proposed recreational rights "strengthening"
ideology promoted in "Soundings", our catch would fall
from 2600 tonnes to 260 tonnes. Bag limits would have to be reduced
to less than one tenth of a snapper per person per day. Conversely,
an open season of less than one month duration for recreational
snapper fishers would have to be implemented, no recreational snapper
fishing could be permitted for the remainder of the year. This level
of risk is clearly unacceptable for something as valuable as recreational
As under Options 2 and 3 we would effectively become minor shareholders
in most of the shared fisheries important to recreational fishers.
Our concerns regarding risk would be easily dismissed by the fishing
industry and Government's ability to intercede on our behalf would
be almost non - existent. Any catch reductions, necessary when high
risk harvest strategies fail, would be shared by all users regardless
of their groups involvement in the cause of the depletion. Recreational
fishers would lose!
Many recreational fishing representatives are adamant that the fishing
industry has far too much control and influence over the provision
and validation of data, the design of scientific models, and the
scientific review process, that fisheries management decisions are
based on. This excessive industry involvement shifts the middle
ground decisively toward higher risk harvest strategies in our fisheries.
The commercial fishing industry representatives are an extremely
powerful, well organised group who have the extensive financial
and personnel resources to even challenge Governments successfully,
what chance would we have of these people agreeing to our acceptable
level of risk, no matter how much money we had!
If the fishing industry wastes or pilfers two tonnes of fish from
the fishery, they will only have to pay back one tonne of quota.
The other tonne will be taken from the recreational share, no wonder
the commercial sector prefer the options that give recreational
fishers an explicit share, it halves their risk exposure at our
Since 1986 and the introduction of the Quota Management System (QMS).
extensive wastage and illegal activity by the fishing industry has
- Dumping of fish caught in excess of quota
- Highgrading (dumping of fish not suitable for export),
- Blackmarketing (selling of fish without reporting it against
- Deeming (selling fish one has no quota for)
These activities have all caused TACC's to be exceeded in the past
and have reduced the legitimate yield available in the fishery.
The Quota Appeal Authority also inflated commercial quotas well
above the yield available in the fishery. Under the proposed Options
2 and 3 we will become minor shareholders in most fisheries important
to recreational fishers.
Make no mistake, if the worst excesses of the fishing industry cannot
be curtailed we will pay through reduced bag limits and catching
rights and in all likelihood we will be paying a fishing license
fee for the privilege under either Option 2 or 3.
While there are a few examples such as Cray 3 where competing users
have acted collectively in the interest of the fishery, and these
solutions to specific issues should be commended if and when successful,
the assumption that this approach will work across the board is
In most shared fisheries, particularly the most important recreational
fishery Snapper 1 (SNA 1), extensive attempts over years of consultation
to resolve conflict co-operatively have failed.
East Coast Scallops and Tauranga Harbour are other examples of failure
requiring legislative fixes. Co-operative management cannot be forced
or legislated for. As soon as it is it ceases to be cooperative
Most recreational fishing clubs and associations have as their motto
or in their constitution the objective "To protect and enhance
the rights of recreational fishers". The Soundings document
fails to deliver even at this most fundamental of levels.
In a fishery that is below the level required to produce the Maximum
Sustainable Yield (MSY), or is at a level lower than recreational
fishers want their fishery run at, and the fishing industry are
not willing to rebuild the fishery at the speed or to the level
required by recreational fishers, there is no incentive for the
recreational sector to conserve in order to attempt to improve their
lot. As soon as their efforts result in a rebuild to MSY the commercial
sector will get a TACC increase and effectively reap half or more
(depending on the respective shares of each in the fishery) of the
benefits derived from recreational conservation . Maori Traditional
will also obtain a slice of the recreationally conserved fish.
Explicit quota for the recreational sector linked in any way shape
or form to commercial rights, or able to be negatively impacted
on by commercial behaviour and/or harvest strategies, must be totally
and completely rejected as an unnecessarily high risk strategy.
Quota will require extensive bureaucracy and rules for little or
no real gains. Quota based options have a real chance of outcomes
directly opposite to the rosy picture painted in the "Soundings"