Legal Challenge Media Release
file High Court proceedings in the Kahawai Legal Challenge
The New Zealand Recreational
Fishing Council Inc and the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council
Inc have lodged judicial review proceedings in the Auckland High
Court which challenge the Minister of Fisheries decision-making
over the management and allocation of kahawai under the quota management
system. The two Fishing Councils represent the many hundreds of
thousands of amateur and recreational fishers from around the country.
The case is backed by fisheries advocacy group "option4".
The proceedings are expected
to be a test case, and will be the first legal proceedings brought
by amateur and recreational fishing interests under New Zealand's
fisheries legislation. The Fishing Councils are taking the case
to protect the fishing rights of the non-commercial fishing sector.
The key objectives of the Court proceedings are to:
- Ensure that "more fish are left in the sea", so there
is a return to better fish catch rates; and
- clarify the Minister of Fisheries' decision-making powers for
amateur and recreational fish species.
New Zealand adopted a property-rights
based approach to commercial fisheries in 1986. Amateur and
recreational fishing was left out of this property-rights framework.
Many key fisheries were fished down to low levels before they were
included in the quota management system. When combined with Ministry
of Fisheries policy which favours allocation of fishing rights based
on recent catch levels, the Fishing Councils, and their technical
and scientific advisors believe this over-fishing has led to fisheries
management decisions that are unfavourable and prejudicial to the
interests of non-commercial fishers.
Mr Jeff Romeril, president
of the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, says "Fishing
is a nationally treasured pastime. It is part of what sets the quality
of life in New Zealand apart from other countries. Yet, for over
two decades, our members have been reporting a serious decline in
many key fish stocks. Our club members have reported a huge decline
in the availability of kahawai from the late 1980's. Recent boat
ramp surveys from the Ministry of Fisheries show a continuing decline
in recreational catch rates for areas in Northland and the Hauraki
Gulf. The decline in the number and size of kahawai schools has
important flow-on effects to other fisheries," said Mr Romeril.
The Fishing Councils attribute
the current low numbers of kahawai schools to past over-fishing
by commercial purse seine fishers before the entry of kahawai to
the quota management system.
Mr Keith Ingram, the president
of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council says that amateur
and recreational fishing interests have in the past simply had to
accept that the amount of fish left available for their use is "the
leftovers" after commercial needs are met. "However, this
is a fundamentally flawed situation, which has led to this test
case." Mr Ingram said "there is a strong public
interest factor in the Fishing Councils bringing the case over kahawai.
It is not about our own interests. This is a case for and on behalf
of the fishing public of New Zealand." He said "it
is estimated that 1 in 3 New Zealanders fish either recreationally
or for food". Most amateur fishing in New Zealand is "as
much about putting fresh seafood on the family table as it is about
Keith Ingram said there was
recognition by the Minister of Fisheries that there was a problem
as the Minister had recently announced a new policy to manage fish
stocks above sustainable levels. However this policy is not yet
firmly established, and at present, existing case law leaves unanswered
questions about how the Minister of Fisheries is required to make
decisions affecting amateur and recreational fisheries, especially
where there is not enough known about sustainable stock levels.
The Fishing Councils have
decided to bring the proceedings as a test case to clarify the legal
situation, and in the hope that the proceedings will result in future
decision-making which will improve the quality of fishing for the
public of New Zealand.
For information contact:
- The New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council Inc - contact Keith
Ingram (027 458 4747)
- New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council Inc – contact Jeff
Romeril (021 573 474) or Richard Baker (021 869 889)
- option4 – contact Trish Rea – (0274 175 121)