Kahawai Legal Challenge
Update New Zealand Fishing News
June 2005 edition
In January 2004
the Ministry of Fisheries wrote the most contentious paper we
have read for quite some time. They alleged there was no scarcity
of kahawai and that our second most important recreational species
should enter into the Quota Management System and be allocated
on catch history.
We were outraged to think
the Ministry (MFish) would consider giving the bulk of the quota
to the very same companies that had used purse seiners and spotter
planes to pillage our precious kahawai. All in the search for
catch history to qualify for quota and then sold as crayfish bait.
Meanwhile ordinary kiwis couldn't compete against industrial technology
as they searched for kahawai in small boats or fished from the
shore to gather food to eat.
The New Zealand Big Game
Fishing Council responded very quickly with a paper and made the
following comment, “ Setting the TAC by adding up what each
sector has been catching implies that MFish is happy with the
current management in this fishery. This is not the view of recreational
or customary fishers. There is still an obvious decline in school
kahawai in many areas.”
The reaction from the non-commercial
recreational sector was almost unanimous. The major representative
organisations asked for, and eventually received, an extension
to the submission deadline. Cynically, the approval for an extension
to April 16 was provided on the original deadline date of February
27. Many had rushed to get their submissions in on time. Some
felt MFish had not shown any good intent by advising of the extension
on the last submission day.
By this time the NZBGFC,
the New Zealand Angling and Casting Association and option4 were
well underway with a rebuttal of the MFish Initial Position Paper
(IPP). The paper was dissected section-by-section. This rebuttal
was provided online for the public to read and make comment on.
It, along with hundreds of other documents remains online
and will do so indefinitely.
An online survey form was
made available at www.option4.co.nz
for people to give their kahawai catch history. Hundreds
of people made the effort to share their “anecdotal evidence”.
Sadly, the responses all carried the same message “There are less
fish around and they are smaller.” These comments just hardened
our resolve to push for a much fairer allocation process. We wanted
official recognition of the damage that had been done to our kahawai
stocks over many years.
option4 Update # 39 discussed
the effects of reduced kahawai numbers on birds, sustenance fishers
and also the majority of commercial fishermen who legitimately
catch kahawai as an unavoidable by-catch when targeting other
species. These people were going to be hugely disadvantaged by
the allocation process. What were they supposed to do? Stop fishing?
The unavoidable by-catch fishery is sufficient to supply our local
market with smoked or fresh fish, a much better option than exporting
bait for such little return.
The environmental impacts
had barely rated a mention by the Ministry, even though the anecdotal
evidence suggested a massive reduction in seabirds and the increasing
population of barracouta in our inshore waters. Kahawai are a
much longer living fish than many appreciate – many of those
slaughtered in their thousands of tonnes by the purse seiners
for little or no meaningful economic return in the late 80's and
early 90's could still be swimming around today – happily
breeding and providing for our “babies and moko to come”
Heat Goes On
We were quickly coming
to the realisation that if we did nothing our precious kahawai
could be lost to commercial greed and poor policy. The
pressure went on to quickly summarise the issues and make it easy
for people to have input into the process. option4 Alert #6 went
out in April 2004 and the response was overwhelming. The Minister
and his Ministry received over 2000 submissions in support of
the document that the NZBGFC, NZACA and option4 had put together.
But wait there's more…
The April 16 deadline was
fast approaching and last minute changes were made to the joint
submission. This document was lodged with MFish along with submissions
from the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, the Council
of Outdoor Recreation Associations of NZ and many more organisations
and individuals. The public reaction was confirmation that our
kahawai fishery was in trouble. People would not accept the leftovers
of commercial exploitation. It was time to claim our kahawai back.
August 10, 2004 will be
remembered as the day the Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope,
legitimatised the wholesale slaughter of the people's fish - our
kahawai. The future of kahawai looked bleak. The decision was
unacceptable and could not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
In an effort to stop the
madness the NZBGFC, the NZRFC, the NZACA and option4 all agreed
to take legal action. If we do not fight this decision all other
fisheries management processes that follow, would in all likelihood
mirror this precedent of proportional reductions, poor advice
and continue to ignore the public's non-commercial fishing interests
- more fish in the water, an abundant kahawai fishery.
The filing of the legal
papers is a little behind schedule but well on track to be finalised
by the end of May. If we succeed in getting the court judgement
we want this delay will be worth it. We want the court to declare
that the Minister must apply the Fisheries Act and allow for our
interests when making fisheries decisions. What better gift can
we give to our kids than a secure fishing future?