This article was
originally published in the June-July issue of the BlueWater magazine
Season one of the best
We are having a great marlin season and we are on track to having our best ever. There has been intense media coverage over the last few months from front page coverage in the national newspapers to prime Six O’clock TV news.
The reason is simple - we are having a bumper year and marlin capture rates are in record proportions everywhere. Both coasts of the upper north island fired this year from Hawkes Bay on the east coast and New Plymouth on the west coast.
The weather in the best months was stable, enabling trailer boats to fish most of the time. By far the majority of the members of the NZBGFC clubs fish from trailer boats so good weather and good fishing have helped us to a potential record year.
The official season extends from July 1st ‘til the following June 30th. These dates selected so the annual migration of game fish in summer is included in a whole year season. The best we have had was in 1998-99 season with 2400 marlin caught.
With clubs reporting catch rates well over double their normal season catch we expect this record to be exceeded. Our own Captain Morgan Nationals in February would normally have 160 marlin caught or tagged. This year we had 330.
Bay of Plenty clubs have really had a ball with a sustained summer of great fishing unrivalled in recent history and a throw back to what fishing may have been like in the early days when Zane Grey visited the area fishing from Mayor Island.
A local club tournament at Whangamata was well supported by their members with 120 teams, mainly pursuing yellowfin tuna. Marlin are caught and the normal tally is 5or 6 fish each year. This year the contestants caught or tagged 10 fold this number with 66 fish caught.
The NZBGFC always enjoys a good season when the west coast is fishing well. This has been the case this season. So good in fact that in the best months most of the top charter and private boats bypassed the banks around the Three Kings and fished the upper west coast off Hokianga.
A move that is unprecedented but likely to be repeated given the success they reported with boats catching multiple marlin each day. By April / May the attention returns to the Three Kings again as fishing here can go late into June before weather and cool water cause catch rates to drop off. If the Kings fire as normal then our best season ever is about to be had.
Kahawai Legal Case
The collection of evidence is progressing well as is the public support both in principle and financially. Filing of the case in court has been delayed until mid April to ensure that a full history and claims made against the Minister of Fisheries leave no stone unturned.
While the issue is about the inability of the average fishing public to catch kahawai, there are strong messages and precedents a success in the case will have for other highly sought after recreational species such as snapper and blue cod.
This Minister and his predecessors have allowed the bulk of NZ kahawai resource to be efficiently harvested by commercial purse seine boats for use in low returning crayfish bait or fish pellets. In doing so have fished down the resource to the situation where large schools of fish are now rare in inshore areas, off beaches, estuaries and river mouths. This in turn has denied access to the fish by the majority of the public.
The Minister’s decision in October last year failed to adequately address the public interest in kahawai, which is the second most popular recreational fish in NZ, by allowing the continued bulk fishing of the resource with commercial purse seining. The Court hearing is expected late this year.
Recreational fishing Hui
Maori interests in NZ have control of over half of the NZ commercial fishery and every Iwi (tribe) has access to customary fishing regulations where they have priority for their special needs above all other fishing.
What is not widely known by the NZ public, and indeed a lot of Maori, is that despite the customary regulations and large ownership of the commercial fishery that just about all Maori fish for themselves the majority of the time under amateur regulations just as the rest of NZ do. Fishing for Maori is primarily about providing food for the family or their Marae and sport or recreation is very much a secondary consideration.
There has been strong criticism of recreational fishing advocates in recent times in their inability to adequately bring Maori iwi into their consideration when making representation on behalf of the public. This has been a serious oversight caused by misunderstanding and in some cases mistrust of the objectives of each group. To initiate a relation building process a hui is to be held, hosted by Ngapuhi at their Whitiora Marae Kerikeri. The hui has three primary objectives.
- Ngapuhi to share insights into their culture, history and perspectives.
- An opportunity for us all to debate the questions of the Fisheries Act in relation to “non commercial interests”
- Discussion on Customary Maori fisheries management tools and their application and potential for fisheries management and marine protection.
Recreational fishing representatives will attend the hui along with members of the Ngapuhi Runanga (Council) in a format that will see representatives living together on the Marae for two days and nights ensuring plenty of time for general discussion and to get to know one another.