This article was
originally published in the Dec-Jan issue of the BlueWater magazine
We knew a year ago that kahawai were going to be a major issue on the fishing management front with this Council joining forces with the NZ Recreational Fishing Council and public pressure group “option4” to legally challenge the Minister of Fisheries on the species management.
The Ministers’ decision on the initial allocation of kahawai when this was introduced into the Quota Management System (QMS) in October 2004 was a poor decision in that we believe he did not adequately address, as required by the Fisheries Act, our interests when making this decision.
Essentially after 15 years of input to the Ministry and their succession of Ministers our observations, submissions and appeals on kahawai were effectively ignored and the depleted stocks of kahawai allowed were to remain at levels woefully inadequate for our expectations and needs.
We sought good legal advice and made our case, reviewing it several times before filing in the High Court on the 12 August 2005. A hearing date has been set down to occur over 4 days in the High Court in May 2006.
This is our first attempt to have any matter challenged in Court so it was not a matter taken lightly. We had threatened Court action twice before on other fish management issues but on both occasions withdrew before considerable expenditure was required.
On the kahawai issue it was felt we had been pushed as far as we were prepared to go in accepting decisions that did not adequately address our concerns in fisheries management. We have been advised by ministry officials numerous times that the QMS can address species with high recreational utilization that also has commercial harvesting. However this seems to be at the expense of ensuring that commercial fishing gets maximum sustainable yield from the fishery while we make do with an allocation that supports this.
We do not accept this and argue that some species should be managed above this maximum sustainable level so the public have increased chance of catching a fish and having greater number of larger fish available. It is a point the Minister has conceded when he made a recent public address at the Recreational Fishing conference. However we have still yet to see evidence that his words will be followed by significant action so our Court action remains on schedule.
Final judgment when made will have far reaching ramifications on all share fisheries decisions in the future. We are confident the final decision will be positive for recreational fishers but even a negative decision will be useful in our approach and subsequent submissions to the fisheries management process. We now wait until May for our time in Court and in the meantime continue on fund-raising for the campaign to help offset the considerable costs involved.
This accord may become historic in New Zealand as the first agreement between a number of Maori Iwi (tribes) and non-commercial (recreational) fishers as interested parties. The name is taken from the Hokianga region where the agreement was formed in the Whakamaharatanga Marae and involves the three Iwi of Ngapuhi, Ngati Wai and Ngati Whatua whose area covers from Auckland north with the exception of the very far north Iwi of Te Rarawa who it is hoped will also join.
It is unprecedented in that never before has any recreational fishing interest group been directly involved in assisting the formation of any Maori forum group with the sole purpose of developing and improving the collective interests of both groups in matters of non commercial fishing.
The Kahawai Legal Challenge was the cause that started the process but the consequences go well beyond that. The accord will extend into all shared fisheries and general management of the maritime environment. Maori have strong links with the sea and generally see the bounty it offers as a source for food rather than recreation as most of our members associate with it.
From our perspective the biggest acknowledgment is that Maori fish 99% of the time as recreational anglers feeding their families and friends. The majority had until recently believed their ability to take fish for their own needs was protected either by their customary rights or through their substantial commercial fishing interests. Their customary rights while secure are very restrictive on when these can be used and do not allow extra ability to take fish home for their own needs.
Their commercial links are considerable but are predominately middle and deep water species and once again do not directly give them the ability to take fish as individuals. It is the capacity as non commercial fishers to take fish home to feed family and friends where we can build on our collective interest.
Our aim is to test and strengthen the recreational right that supports a management regime which benefits all non commercial fishers. This will lead to the quality of fishing we all expect rather than must accept. Quality means abundant fish and increased numbers of larger fish. This in turn gives us all increased chance of having fish to take home to enjoy for our own needs.
By working closely with Maori in our endeavors to achieve this brings increased strength in all our submissions and the manner in which they are received.
next goal is to take the example shown by the Hokianga Accord
to other regions around NZ to make similar forums.