Allocation – The Simple Truth
Kahawai Legal Challenge
Update New Zealand Fishing News
January 2006 edition
allocation of fisheries is a method of giving all of the
competing users in a fishery an explicit portion or share
of the available catch.
in the fishery, competing interests will be expected to
work collectively together in the interests of the fishery.
If the fishery
improves, everyone's portion is to be increased by the same
If the fishery
becomes depleted, everyone's catch is to be reduced by the
It sounds very
simple, and on the surface, it appears to be fair.
could be further from the truth.
of kahawai booklets and t-shirts ready for dispatch.
option4 considers the proportional
allocation of fish stocks between commercial and non-commercial
fishers is an unfair system devised by the Ministry of Fisheries
(MFish). The proportional system's only basis seems to be that
it allows MFish to escape accountability for the allocation blunders
and entrenched mismanagement of commercial fisheries since the
introduction of the Quota Management System in 1986.
If MFish succeed, and
a proportional system is adopted, non-commercial fishers will
become little more than minor shareholders in a commercial fishery.
This is because non-commercial fishers currently have poorly defined
rights and no resources with which to compete against a well-heeled
commercial fishing industry. A real fear is that commercial fishers
will quickly gain control of the process, thereby allowing them
to continue doing whatever they want.
Recreational fishers should
never forget, even with all their resources, MFish have failed
to adequately manage or constrain the commercial component of
many important shared fisheries. In a proportional system the
Ministry will remove itself from contentious decisions and will
abandon the users to sort out fisheries issues with each other.
There would be no hope for recreational and other non-commercial
fishers under such a system where commercial fishers have most
of the rights and all of the resources.
The initial allocations
are of even greater concern. Recreational allocations are based
on scientifically inadequate research undertaken in fisheries
depleted to unacceptably low levels by excessive commercial fishing.
MFish have acknowledged there has been no proper process to set
the initial allocations. However, the Ministry has a perverse
incentive to under-allocate to non-commercial fishers in order
to avoid compensation issues for the Crown. This is driven by
the reality that only commercial fishers hold property rights
in the form of fishing quotas and can sue the Crown for compensation
if those rights are affected. This serious imbalance means it
is likely the Ministry will give commercial fishers everything
they want and then allocate a hapless recreational sector the
Taxpayers have already
compensated commercial fishers to fish within sustainable limits
to rebuild commercially depleted fisheries. These limits have
been regularly exceeded since the introduction of the QMS. This
over-fishing is the only reason catches now need to be cut again.
Yet the Ministry blindly refuses to acknowledge the obvious link
between cause and effect. It is clearly commercial over-fishing
that has caused the depletion of the fisheries. It is equally
clear the Ministry's failure to constrain commercial fishers to
sustainable quotas has prevented many fisheries rebuilding. The
remedy is just as obvious, if excessive commercial fishing has
caused the problem then reducing commercial fishing, with the
Ministry actually enforcing those lower quotas, is the only fair
way to fix it.
Instead the Ministry wants
to cut non-commercial catches as a way to prop up unsustainable
commercial harvest and avoid paying compensation. This is grossly
unfair to recreational fishers. Indeed it is hard to imagine a
more unjust system. The real crunch will come when the Ministry
attempts to constrain recreational and customary fishers to whatever
proportional allowance they decides is appropriate. In some fisheries
massive bag limit reductions or seasonal closures could be required.
option4 believes proportional allocation will put recreational
fishers on a hiding to nothing.
Every recreational and
non-commercial fisher should be outraged and prepared to stand
up and be counted. We must tell the Government that those who
have done the damage to the fisheries are the only ones whose
catches should be cut. The clearest message currently being sent
to the Government that proportionalism is unacceptable is through
the Kahawai Legal Challenge.
The Kahawai Legal Challenge
has been taken on behalf of every non-commercial fisher in the
country. The team consisting of option4, the New Zealand Big Game
Fishing Council and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council
are working very hard. This often involves making huge personal
sacrifices of both family time and money. They need all the support
you can give them. Check out the form below to find out how you
can help win this critical case.