This article was originally published in The Informer on 15th June 2005
This is the warning being sent out to all recreational fishers from a small group of volunteers who are frantically working to protect the interests of recreational fishers throughout New Zealand.
The volunteers are made up of representatives from option4 (a fishing action group), New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, and the New Zealand Angling and Casting Association. They are working hard to raise money and awareness for a landmark court case.
The group are taking the Minister of Fisheries to court, challenging his decision last year, about the quota of kahawai allocated to all fishers. This decision saw a 15 percent reduction in commercial and recreational catch limits for kahawai, in order to protect the species.
They are challenging the basis of the decision, arguing that the information provided to the minister was not accurate, and is therefore in violation of Section 21 of the Fisheries Act 1996.
Trish Rea, spokesperson for option4 says: “We are challenging the way Section 21 is applied in fishery management.
“Our whole objective is to see more fish in the water,” says Ms Rea.
Alan Meek, communications manager for the Ministry says: “At this stage the challenge is only threatened; we haven’t received any formal statements of claim, so at the moment there nothing is happening other than the fact that they are talking about it.”
The change to the quota means that the area from North Cape to East Cape (Kahawai 1) has an allowable catch of 1,865 tonnes for recreational fishers.
Ms Rea says in the 2003/04 summer, there were only 30 tonnes of kahawai caught in the Hauraki Gulf area which makes up around 17 percent of Kahawai 1.
“If the fish aren’t there you can’t catch them,” says Ms Rea, “The fact is that the fish aren’t there.”
Don Glass, who is involved with the fundraising campaign, says it is unfair that such a large share of the quota is going to the people who ran it down in the first place.
He says the decision is penalising recreational fishers for something the commercial fishers did.
Mr Glass says the quota management of kahawai is not sustainable, and it is not fair that ordinary Kiwis are being “robbed” of their right to “catch a feed of fish, whenever the fancy takes them.”
The lawyers are finalising the affidavits and then a statement of claim will be filed in the High Court by the end of June. They will then be given a date to appear in court, and they are hoping this date will be before the end of the year.
Basically, in layman’s terms, Section 21 states when the minister sets or changes the allowable commercial catch for any species in the quota management system, he needs to take into account non-commercial interests, including Maori non-commercial customary interests, and recreational fishing interests.
Before deciding on the catch limit, the minister needs to consult with representatives who have an interests in this matter, including recreational, Maori, commercial and environmental interests.
The kahawai action group are arguing the minister did not take adequate account of these interests before allocating the quota, and are questioning the basis of his decision.
Anyone who wants to make a donation to the legal challenge fund can ring 0900 KAHAWAI (52 42 92) to automatically donate $20, or visit the website www.kahawai.co.nz for more information, and supporter’s packs.