This article was originally
published in The Weekend Sun
Caption: Sanford Tauranga manager Ian van der Nagel and commercial
purse seine fisherman Kevin Murray say kahawai fish stocks are at
sustainable levels and bringing the fish under the Quota Management
System will ensure the fish is managed well in the future.
Tauranga-based commercial kahawai fishers are biting back at recreational
fishing group claims the total allowable catches set when bringing
the species under the Quota Management System from October 1 are
The New Zealand Big Game
Fishing Council (NZBGFC), New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council
(NZRFC), and option4, claim decisions made by Minister of Fisheries,
David Benson-Pope, in relation to the kahawai quota were based on
‘inadequate information’. They are mounting a public
campaign – the Kahawai Challenge – to raise funds for
a legal challenge in the hope a judicial review will force the minister
to reconsider the recreational and commercial fisher’s quota
But Sanford Tauranga manager
Ian van der Nagel agrees with comments made by the minister that
the catch limits were set conservatively.
“We believe the
level set is lower than what it could have been.” The Total
Allowable Catch (TAC) is 7612 tonnes for all fishers. According
to Ian, there would be no threat to sustainability if the kahawai
TAC was set at 8200 tonnes.
got to have tight control on who’s catching what and they
have to know if they over-catch, they’re in trouble.”
Sanford is the leading
company in the New Zealand pelagic fishery, which includes kahawai,
skipjack tuna, trevally, jack and blue mackerel. The majority of
its kahawai catch is sold to the Western Australian lobster bait
market, with local, Eastern European and Middle East markets developing.
The company has consistently
fished kahawai in Area One (which covers from Cape Runaway to the
Mercury Islands/Whitianga) for 10 years and Ian says it has been
easily able to achieve its competitive catch limit during that time.
He queries claims by recreational fishers that kahawai stocks are
depleted, as does spotter plane pilot and ex-commercial fisherman,
John ‘Red’ Barker.
Spotter pilots fly above
the sea, letting commercial fishers know where schools of fish are,
what species are in the school, and an estimate of the school size.
Red has been spotting since 1975.
“I have a good overview. We do see a lot of fish at times,
at others we don’t.”
Sanford commercial fisherman
Kevin Murray operates one of the company’s five-strong purse
seine fleet - boats that use large nets to capture a whole school
of fish. Kevin: “To say you can’t catch one off the
beach, that’s nonsense.” He says to over-fish would
be cutting off his nose to spite his face.
fishing for 27 years and I want to be fishing for 20 more, so I’m
not going to ruin it for myself. That’s my livelihood.”
Red says though kahawai
were fished heavily during the 1980s, when commercial fishing companies
were trying to establish a catch history, he has not seen a lessening
in kahawai stocks in the last 10 years. He puts the varying numbers
of fish seen by recreational fishers down to seasonal migrations,
climate conditions, poor survival rates from spawning, or food shortages
in an area.
Like recreational fishers,
Sanford is pleased kahawai is now covered by the quota system but
says it has fundamentally changed the way the company will fish
for the species.
“The QMS provides
a clearly defined property right allowing sustainable utilisation
of the resource at the same time as eliminating the inefficient
and disruptive competitive fishing regimes of the past. But kahawai
is now off the menu (for purse seine fishers) - there is no targeting
of it at this time.”
This is because from October
1, Sanford’s quota for Area One is 512 tonnes a year for all
methods of fishing - purse seine, trawler and long-line, regardless
of whether it is caught as by-catch.
Previously there was only a Competitive Catch Limit on kahawai caught
by purse seiners. Fish caught as by-catch from other methods had
Because by-catch kahawai
now takes part of the quota, Sanford’s purse seine fleet will
only target kahawai specifically from August or September 2005 if
the company’s kahawai quota is not filled.