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Soundings Overview 2000

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.

Theoretically, 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
Option 1
Options 2 & 3
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

Summary of Options

The three Soundings Document options are:

  1. Discretionary Share (the current system)
  2. Proportional Share (a fixed share of the available yield)
  3. 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.

Option 1
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.

Example 1
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 fishing.

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!

Example 2
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 expense.

Since 1986 and the introduction of the Quota Management System (QMS). extensive wastage and illegal activity by the fishing industry has been reported.

  • Dumping of fish caught in excess of quota
  • Highgrading (dumping of fish not suitable for export),
  • Blackmarketing (selling of fish without reporting it against quota)
  • 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 unfounded.

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

Example 3
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" document.


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