was originally published in New Zealand Fishing World magazine
July/August 2007 edition.
you read this magazine there is a very good chance
that you like to fish at least occasionally and expect
to have some chance of catching a fish to take home
this magazine there are plenty of articles about equipment,
'How To' techniques and hot locations that will
maximize your chances when you do decide to go fishing.
there are ample exciting tales of great fishing trips
that leave us green with envy and a little
disbelieving that such fishing is possible.
to cap it off there are advice sections on the many delicious
ways we can cook and enjoy our catch. All of which motivates
us to try our own luck because if we believe just a fraction
of all the many magazine articles and TV shows about fishing
in NZ there are fish galore and all you have to do is soak
a line following the advice given and you will soon have
fish for dinner.
reality though is often a different story, which nobody
writes about or portrays on fishing shows - the fish caught
were undersized and returned or we caught no fish at all!
Recreational fishermen must be the most optimistic people
I know because they are easily motivated to give it another
go when their own track record of catching fish is abysmal.
They invent sayings to justify failure “a day fishing
with no fish is better than a day at work” and “it
was a great day to be out on the water”. They buy
the latest tackle and electronic wizardry, spend a fortune
on bait and fuel and prepare to do it all again because
last time “the fish just weren’t biting”
but maybe today?
know there are fish out there because at the boat ramp some
show off was proudly holding up his decent size prized catch
to his mates. So the question that naturally follows, is
the fishing as plentiful as the various magazines and TV
shows would have us believe or is this an illusion only
to be repeated by those skillful and knowledgeable enough
to regularly catch good fish?
am reminded of a TV advert where a young girl and
her father are fishing together on a wharf and she
asks her dad how many fish are there in the sea?
replies hundred's of thousands to which she quickly
follows with "then how come we can't catch one?"
question asked is a complex issue and mixture of fishing
talent, fish behavior, fisheries stock management
with a goal of more fish in the water and most importantly
having someone looking after your fishing rights
to access and take fish.
will briefly deal with each of these issues and then
discuss with you some myths, perceptions and facts
that you should know on representation of your fishing
rights and achieving more fish in the sea.
fishermen with talent are a fact and the adage that
20% of fishermen catch 80% of the catch is a reportable
statistic through surveys.
with talent will always out fish the rest, no matter
how abundant or scarce the fish are.
good news is, you can acquire the skill with plenty of practice
and applying the knowledge you learn.
fish behavior is a major advantage to your success, to know
where they are likely to be found, feeding patterns and
affects of daily climatic conditions, tide and seasonal
migrations on the target species. Plenty of reading will
assist and tapping into the knowledge of proven fishermen
who have undoubtedly done their homework on this factor
will greatly help.
to fisheries management. This responsibility falls to the
Minister of Fisheries who has a substantial ministry (MFish)
to advise and administer his decisions. The Minister is
required to conform to the Fisheries Act which in turn requires
all human interaction with any fishery to be controlled
so that the fishery is harvested at or above a sustainable
level. There are a number of competing demands for the fish
in the sea.
fishing wants to bulk harvest and sell the resource, recreational
anglers want to be able to catch a fish for their own needs,
customary fishers have the needs of their Marae and hui,
then there is other mortality such as black market fishing,
fished killed in the fishing process but not retained and
environmental factors such as yearly breeding conditions
that can alter the size of future catches.
Minister must determine what can be safely extracted without
threatening the sustainable future of the species. Then
comes the hard part, he has to allow for each of the competing
interests, each with their own demands and justification
for a greater share.
To keep it simple the demands of recreational fishers can
be satisfied by having more fish in the water. More fish
means your chances of catching a fish are higher and that
the fish you catch will on average be bigger.
is the opposite to what commercial fishers want, they maximize
their return to their shareholders if they can fish down
a resource to approximately 20-25% of its original (virgin)
biomass. This produces a fishery where there are lots of
smaller fast growing fish that are replenished quickly and
gives them the greatest yield at a sustainable rate. Nevertheless
at 20-25% biomass the total weight of fish in the water
is less than a quarter of its original size.
should also add that finding and maintaining that level
has eluded the Minister and MFish and most of our important
shared fisheries have gone below the critical 20-25%. They
know it and so do the commercial fishing companies who lobby
for the required rebuild to the minimum level to be spread
out over the maximum possible time often 20- 30 years or
have a guess at which competing demand gets the most attention
and you will also be able to answer the question on how
well we have been served on achieving more fish in the water.
for action, you bet and the Kahawai Legal Challenge (KLC)
was a huge step in the right direction. Albeit it is now
subject to an appeal by commercial fishers who will fight
at all costs to prevent a possible reallocation of resource
to achieve more fish in the water for non commercial fishers.
appeal is being contested by the NZBGFC along with our partner’s.
But the point I want to make is the KLC challenge was a
last resort and an expensive option to resolve issues on
how we achieve more fish in the water for non commercial
have been poorly served by successive governments in looking
after our interests. The loudest squeaky hinge that got
the oil was a very powerful and financial fishing industry.
Our own lobby to governments over the last 20 plus years
has been a whimper, stifled by lack of clear mandate, financial
and manpower resources.
were no threat, the politicians would turn up to a NZ Recreational
Fishing Council (NZRFC) Conference, look around at the poor
attendance and noted that ministry and government officials
outnumbered the delegates. Former Minister of Fisheries
Pete Hodgson was honest enough to say to us directly that
an organized recreational fishing group was an oxymoron.
So we didn’t hold much sway.
In hindsight the establishment of the NZRFC of which the
NZBGFC was instrumental in forming was a failure. Despite
the best efforts of some very well meaning individuals who
donated considerable time and in a number of cases substantial
personal funding to make the NZRFC work, it hasn’t
achieved its primary purpose.
NZBGFC has contributed substantially in both finance and
manpower but didn’t achieve the most important factor,
that of buy in by the public. The NZRFC exists on a meager
$40,000 per year. Enough to survive but not be effective.
real danger is they still exist and are making important
decisions on your behalf without informing or consultation
with the group they claim to represent – you the public.
Yes they have a newsletter – have you seen one, and
they have website – try and find it.
be blunt we only have ourselves to blame in that unless
there is a serious issue that got your undivided attention
such as licensing, most of the country’s 1 million
anglers just got on with their lives and left the recreational
fishing lobby and aspirations to a few willing club delegates.
That will never cut it with the might and power of commercial
fishing in NZ and while a few battles may be won, we will
get worn down by attrition.
how do we achieve critical mass in our lobbying? The NZBGFC
even with its 32,000 membership and clear structure and
lines of communication is not sufficiently broad enough
in its aims to take on a role of fully representing the
public. In fact we are quite selfish and while our aims
may have a benefit for the public such as the kahawai legal
campaign our primary aim is seeking outcomes benefiting
The current Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton has also
correctly identified that the public are poorly served by
representation and for the first time by any Minister has
offered the possibility of forming a recreational fishing
trust with seed money to get it underway. While money from
Government always comes with riders on how it’s spent
(ie so we don’t use it to take him to Court) it would
be an improvement on what we currently have. It’s
too early to determine how this will unfold and is subject
to intense political maneuvering by politicians, your current
NZRFC advocates and commercial fishing companies.
We should though take heart in recent developments of our
own making. The KLC was a huge success and subject to repelling
the appeal will have a long standing beneficial affect for
us on all our shared fisheries, not just kahawai.
last three years has also seen the development of option4
and regional forums such as the Hokianga Accord. They provide
a huge boost in support for the public outside of clubs
structures and were very influential in the forming of the
submission was a huge piece of work submitted on your behalf
to Government on Shared
Fisheries and put together by some of the best recreational
fishing minds that have the technical knowledge and talent
to write such a paper.
is without a doubt the best and most comprehensive submission
that I have ever been involved with and squarely states
where non commercial fishers have been short changed with
the development of the Quota Management System. It also
offers what can be realistically redressed by constructive
proposals. It is a must read for any new club delegate or
member of the public that values their ability to catch
a fish for themselves or future family.
So back to my original question “is the fishing as
plentiful as the various magazines and TV shows would have
us believe or is this an illusion?” The short answer
is, it could be better, a lot better, yes we will still
get a fish but imagine the possibilities and catch rates
if our simple aim of more fish in the water was an active
government plan. Pursued and achieved by strong non commercial
lobbying merely advocating your rights.
further assistance or info refer www.option4.co.nz