Hook into the Ministry of Fisheries
This article was originally
published in The Weekend Sun
Recreational fishers will be hooking into the Ministry of Fisheries
next year over the allocation decisions made when introducing the
kahawai to the Quota Management System on October 1.
The New Zealand Big Game
Fishing Council (NZBGFC), New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council
(NZRFC), and option4, which supports recreational fishing for food,
believe decisions made by Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope,
in relation to the kahawai quota are “unjust”. The groups
are preparing for a legal challenge in the High Court which will
seek a judicial review of these decisions. They hope a declaratory
judgement would force the minister to reconsider the recreational
and commercial fisher’s quota allocations.
A public campaign –
the Kahawai Challenge - has been launched to gather support from
the estimated one million New Zealanders who pick up a fishing rod
at some point each year. The challenge’s primary aim is to
have the kahawai fishery rebuilt and proper recreational access
Kahawai Challenge campaign
manager Don Glass had a campaign stall at the Trade-a-boat Tauranga
Boat Show on November 19 and was joined by option4 spokesperson
and NZRFC board member Scott Macindoe.
Don says kahawai are the
second most important salt-water species for recreational anglers
and campaign supporters are concerned at the state of the fishery.
“Kahawai is the
people’s fish.” Many people catch kahawai off the beach
or from small boats in sheltered waters.
Scott says this is partly
because they are easy to spot. Their schooling nature forces smallfry
to the surface, attracting seabirds en masse. “There’s
a wheeling cacophony of gulls in conjunction with kahawai feeding
off the shores of Tauranga and the Mount. Tauranga is world headquarters
Kahawai make pretty good
eating for humans too.
“Fishing for kahawai
is a tradition for many families. If you’ve ever cracked open
a fresh kahawai with lemon and coconut cream, it’s the ultimate.
And they’re good in a curry too.”
Kahawai catches were previously
managed under a permit system but in August the minister announced
they would come under the QMS from October 1 to safeguard the species.
The decision called for a 15 per cent reduction in commercial and
recreational catches, to 3035 tonnes for commercial fishers and
3415 tonnes for recreational fishers, not including a 1007 tonne
Maori customary fishing allowance. But Don says this is actually
an increase of five per cent from the 2002/03 season’s commercial
catch of 2900 tonne.
According to Don, the
ministry has based its decisions on “totally inadequate information”.
At the time the minister said the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) was
set with caution because of uncertainty about stocks.
Don: “You don’t
go allocating quota without knowing what the state of the fishery
is.” “A high-risk management strategy is being employed
– the Maximum Sustainable Yeild – a commercially-driven
strategy that has not worked for the fishing industry when applied
to other fin-fish species and is not working for kahawai.”
He says large commercial
fishing companies who use purse seiners (large nets that capture
a whole school of fish), often assisted by spotter planes to target
surface schools of kahawai, depleted fish stocks in the 1980s and
90s in a bid to establish a catch history. Fish were then sold for
very low returns to the Australian crayfish bait and catfood markets.
slaughter broke the back of the kahawai stocks at the direct expense
of the non-commercial fishers catch rates.
the number of people who’ve come up and said we go fishing
at a place up the coast and we always used to catch kahawai there
but now we don’t see them.”
Scott says Maori stand
to lose the most physically, spiritually, and psychologically from
a reduction in the amount of kahawai allowed to be caught by recreational
fishers. “The kahawai is hugely important to Maori. It’s
a taonga (treasure) for Tauranga and Whakatane. There’s no
mana in the way it’s being treated, no respect.” Maori
traditionally use manaaki manuhiri (welcoming gifts for visitors).
the precedent established with the kahawai decision has the potential
to destroy recreational fishing as we know it.”
As well as the human cost,
depletion of kahawai stock has an environmental impact as well.
Don: “There’s a whole ecosystem and kahawai fit right
in there. Large fish eat kahawai. Kahawai eat smaller fish. If you
take kahawai out of the food chain, something else suffers.”
Lawyers Hesketh Henry
have agreed to aid the cause but costs are estimated at $200,000,
not taking into account likely appeals. NZBGFC is contributing $25,000
and option4 $10,000 as start-up money, but the Kahawai Challenge
campaign is aiming to raise money towards the legal costs as well.
The Ministry of Fisheries
did not wish to comment on the possible court challenge.
information, visit www.kahawai.co.nz
or call 0800 KAHAWAI (0800 52 42 92).