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Kahawai Challenge Update #7 May 2005

Benson-Pope's Biggest Blunder

Kahawai Challenge team

May 2005

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.


Immediate Response

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.  


Effects of Overfishing

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”


The 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…


Submission Time

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.


Decision Day

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.


Kahawai Legal Challenge

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.


Join the Challenge

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?


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