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Challenge Update #12 Oct 2005

Kahawai Legal Challenge Only Hope for Recreational

Fishers to get a Fair Deal

Kahawai Challenge team

October 2005

Kahawai Legal Challenge Update New Zealand Fishing News

November 2005 edition

Proportional cuts Stopping the madness
Waste and excess rewarded Status of court case
Conservation Fundraising campaign
Mismanagement Tangata whenua perspective
Setting commercial proportions What can you do to help?
Setting recreational proportion Kahawai
Compensation bias Snapper 8


New fishery decisions have left recreational leaders reeling. The Minister of Fisheries, David Benson Pope, has again reduced the kahawai allowance for recreational fishers and reduced recreational snapper catches on the west coast of the North Island.

The Minister has made these decisions using the same “proportional” method he used for kahawai last year - a decision that the N.Z. Recreational Fishing Council and the N.Z. Big Game Fishing Council believe is so unjust they are currently challenging it through the courts.

According to option4 project leader Paul Barnes, “Recreational fishers should be very afraid. They are on a hiding to nothing with the proportional ideology the Ministry of Fisheries is inflicting upon them.”

“The depletion of kahawai and west coast snapper stocks is well documented. The appallingly low stock sizes of both fisheries are indisputably due to excessive commercial fishing, the poor management and implementation of the Quota Management System. It is grossly unfair for the Minister to punish recreational fishers for problems caused by excessive commercial fishing”

Recreational fish are now being used to subsidise commercial excesses. In the snapper 8 decision, commercial overfishing has lead to recreational bag limit cuts. The Minister is also making it clear that conservation by recreational fishers in the past counts for nothing. Instead the Minister is making equal cuts to commercial and recreational allowances.

Proportional Cuts –Double Jeopardy for Recreational Fishers

Recreational fishers resoundingly rejected proportional allocations as being grossly unfair when promoted in the “ Soundings ” document during 2000. This system forces recreational fishers to accept the leftovers of a poorly implemented and managed Quota Management System (QMS) after it has failed to constrain commercial catches in some very important shared fisheries.

The effect has been reduced recreational catch due to the declining fishery. The remaining legal sized fish are smaller, scarcer or both. However, the commercial catch does not reduce as the stock size falls. This is because commercial fishers can, and do, increase their effort by using bigger boats, bigger nets or in the case if SNA8, targeting the schools of spawning snapper in the spring to catch or even exceed their quotas.

In depleted fisheries recreational catch has already been drastically reduced by the fall in the size of the fish stock. Then the Minister decides to cut the catches of commercial and recreational by an equal percentage. Recreational fishers lose out twice under a proportional system while commercial fishers only lose when their quota is cut.

This unfair method of allocating catch between commercial and recreational fishers ensures commercial fishers eventually have a greater share of the fishery. Meanwhile non-commercial fishers are allocated the minimum possible tonnage based on what was caught in the depleted fishery.

If recreational fishers have conserved in the fishery then they lose out again. This is because the cuts are applied to current recreational catches or to outdated and flawed estimates of recreational catch that are known to be underestimates of what recreational fishers actually catch.

Waste And Excess Rewarded While Conservation Is Punished

In choosing to cut commercial and recreational catches by the same proportion the Minister has ignored the history of the fishery. He has rewarded the commercial sector for depleting the fishery and for over fishing their quotas in the past. In addition, considerable quantities of fish already conserved by recreational fishers have not been taken into account.

The proportional ideology is flawed because it provides no real consequences for commercial over fishing, other than paying a deemed value penalty, and no benefits whatsoever for recreational fishers who have their proportion reduced when they conserve fish.

Conservation Efforts

In SNA8 during the mid 1990s recreational fishers voluntarily took bag limit cuts, an increase in the minimum size limit and accepted a halving of the number of hooks on longlines. These measures were taken to assist in the rebuild of important shared fisheries.

Recent estimates show recreational fishers have reduced their snapper catch on the west coast by over 26% since 1995. Despite this effort the Minister has made a proportional cut and reduced the recreational bag limit from 15 to 10. Harbour fishermen will be worst affected as the fish in the Manukau and Kaipara tend to be smaller than off the coast.


If the Ministry is adamant about implementing proportional allocations then surely the initial proportions should have been set fairly. For this to be the case the Ministry should be able to point to a robust process where they set the initial proportions between commercial and non-commercial fishers. The truth is they have not and they cannot!

The Setting of the Commercial Proportion

In 1986 the commercial sector were issued quotas that were set at levels that would allow commercially depleted inshore fisheries to rebuild. It was a good idea.

However, commercial fishers found several ways of increasing their quotas and increasing their profitability since 1986. Unfortunately for recreational fishers, the Ministry has consistently failed to acknowledge the impact of these increases and their duty to manage commercial catches within the sustainable quotas they had set. This is the cause of many of the problems we have today and has unfairly decreased the recreational proportion in those fisheries.

How these excesses have been allowed to affect recreational catch rates is well illustrated in the west coast snapper fishery, snapper 8 (SNA8).

The following table shows the effects of the Ministry's failure to constrain, cap or limit the commercial sector to the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) since 1987-88. Quota Appeals Authority (QAA) decisions are included as these were not scientifically set and have no regard to sustainability.


The Setting of the Recreational Proportion

For proportional allocations to have any chance of working between commercial and non-commercial fishers, it is essential that the initial proportions are set fairly. This has not occurred.

Instead, the recreational sector has simply been given the leftovers of poorly managed commercial fisheries as an initial allocation. If the fishery is depleted the allocation is cut without giving any consideration as to who caused the depletion. This is patently unfair and unreasonable as it makes recreational allowances subservient to commercial fishing interests.

Compensation Bias – The Ugly Truth

Usually when fisheries need rebuilding the commercial sector demand proportional cuts be made to recreational catches or they want compensation. The main argument seems to be that if only commercial quotas are cut, then somehow this constitutes a re-allocation of fish from commercial to recreational fishers. Looking at recent decisions it appears that the Ministry and Minister have bought into this idea big time, and are now making decisions to avoid the possibility of facing claims for compensation. Otherwise how could a fair and reasonable person make such patently unfair decisions?

Stopping the Madness

Last year's kahawai decision was a red flag to recreational fishing leaders. They warned that this was the thin end of a big wedge that could seriously affect recreational fishing rights into the future. They were right!

Fortunately the NZ Big Game Fishing Council (NZBGFC) and NZ Recreational Fishing Council response was to take legal action against the 2004 decision.

Status of the Court Case

The case has been reviewed by a QC and filed in the High Court. Powerful affidavits supporting the case have also been lodged. The legal challenge goes to the core of most of the issues raised by this year's fisheries decisions. A determination from the Court that results in more guidance for the Ministry and Minister when making decisions will be of immense value to all New Zealanders.   The case is due to be heard in the High Court mid 2006.

The court case is well advanced, and has only been possible because the NZBGFC and one individual have underwritten the campaign. So, after years of watching the commercial sector taking the Minister to court to strengthen their rights, recreational fishers finally have the opportunity to do the same.

Fundraising Campaign

The current court case has been heavily subsidised by the underwriters. Committed organisations and individuals like this are hard to find, recreational fishers cannot afford to lose them. All recreational fishers should feel deeply indebted as the court case would not have proceeded without this upfront funding.

This campaign is a unique opportunity to show that recreational fishers value their access to more fish in the water and understand that this may not be the last time we need to use the Courts to determine our rights.

This case will proceed and recreational fishers need to support the underwriters and the fundraising drive. If the underwriters are not repaid recreational fishers put themselves at great risk of not being able to successfully defend themselves against unfavourable decisions in the future. The campaign and underwriters need the backing of all recreational fishers. A generous investment in this campaign is worth more than just money for all non-commercial fishers and would go a long way to achieving the goal of “more fish in the water”.


Tangata Whenua Perspective

In April this year Sonny Tau, Chairman of Te Runanga A Iwi o Ngapuhi, had this to say about fishing:

99.99% of the time Maori are fishing they are categorised as recreational fishers. The Ministry of Fisheries have done an excellent job of fooling us into thinking that our rights to fish have been catered for under the customary fisheries regulations. This is as far from the truth as one can get.
MFish have created in law three categories of fishers - customary, recreational and commercial fishers. Customary fishers are those who collect seafood for a hui mate or an occasion of significance.
The area where we catch most of our fish for kai is recreational, so we must join forces to fight for our share.

What can you do to Help?

option4 has been managing the fundraising aspects of the campaign supporting the Kahawai Legal Challenge. Trustees of the Challenge Fund include the NZ Fishing News.

The main fundraising tool is the Kahawai Booklet. If you want to get involved and raise donations please call our help team on 0800 KAHAWAI (52 42 92).

If you have had a Booklet for more than two months now is the time to give it another burst and send it back with the donations you have raised.

If you require assistance or would like to know more please call our team on:

0800 KAHAWAI (52 42 92).

A quick $20 donation can be made by dialing 0900 KAHAWAI (52 42 92). This will be debited to your phone account.

Visit the website www.kahawai.co.nz to order your Booklet online and find out more.

Please send your Booklets and/or donations to:

Kahawai Challenge Fund

c/o NZ Fishing News, Freepost 131323, PO Box 12-965, Penrose, Auckland.

Email the team at contact@kahawai.co.nz


Massive catches of kahawai were taken by commercial purse seine vessels in a race to build their catch history that would ultimately become the basis for their quota allocation. As the fishery declined recreational catch declined.

The Ministry of Fisheries graph shows the recreational catch dropped by half following the worst years of unconstrained commercial catches.Commercial Catch Limits (CCL) were set in 1991. Recreational catches have not improved since then.

Snapper 8

The snapper fishery on the west coast of the North Island has a similar history.


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