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Angling for the Future by Peter Stevens.- 14 November 2000
November issue of Seafood NZ.


I can't help thinking that the Recreational Fishing sector would be far better off if they actually did something more constructive than concentrating their efforts on their eternal habit of blaming every one else for their perceived problems. It doesn't surprise me that their years of finger pointing has not produced any sort of result whatsoever, in terms of providing any solutions to their grievances. In fact I think it would be fair to say that ever since they embarked on the grievance trail they have actually gone backwards. In between the prolonged periods of levelling blame upon all and sundry some of their number suggest the sort of solutions that they'd like to see enacted and therein lies another problem. The solutions that they suggest are so devoid of practical reality that it's little wonder that they've not found (ever) any currency in political circles. To claim that the $1 billion per annum that they spend on their sport creates the same economic benefit to the country as provided by the Seafood Industry is as naïve as it gets. Expenditure on rec fishing is internal spending which consumes a lot of overseas currency without returning much by way of revenue to Government, whereas the commercial sector does exactly the opposite.

Treasury could well argue that the economy would be better off if there were no recreational fishing at all apart from tourist fishing charters. The next one is the suggestion that the management of rec fishing be funded by the road tax on fuel. The likelihood of the Government (any Govt.) rekindling a rebate system on fuel is Alice in Wonderland thinking. After all there is widespread opinion that they don't even spend it on roads anymore. Taking the cake for naive futility is the suggestion that GST on rec fishing expenditure be paid back to provide funding. What will the Government tell all of the hundreds of thousands of other sporting people when they line up for their GST re-payments? And believe it or not there are even serious suggestions that Govt should put a levy on the sale of sports fishing gear. Another lack of understanding is the continuing insistence that the 1989 ministerial policy on recreational fishing has some legislative validity in today's word. Political history is strewn with thousands of grandiose policies that lie dead and permanently buried for the want of parliamentary consent. The 1998 policy is but one of them. And of course there is the endless call to, "get rid of all commercial fishing and everything will be okay." And so the futile suggestions and proposals go on year after year with no positive outcome whatsoever apart from illustrating one salient fact. And that is that the majority of the rec fishermen have very little knowledge or understanding of politics, fisheries management, the quota management system and how Governments operate. That knowledge and understanding might not have been required of them in the past but they are about to find that it is now a vital necessity. Unfortunately they are not assisted in learning what is required from the publications that that purport to support them.

On the eve of the launch of the first in depth review of recreational fishing (Soundings) you would expect the recreational fishing media to be at least a little positive over the fact that some form of action was being initiated. But not so, and in the typical manner to which we have become accustomed the editor of NZ Fishing News has produced another negative editorial. In his August editorial, which was largely devoted to the recreational fishing rights issue, Editor Grant Dixon has once again sought to blame the Seafood Industry for the angler's woes. In that editorial he states his belief that the Recreational Fishing Council's thinking has "been infiltrated by the enemy- Industry and Maori." Of course as any of the Council members, and I guess the Maori representatives also, will tell you that is so far from the truth that it's laughable. Further on he reinforces his opinion by stating that the document has been "polluted," with the views of those two powerful groups. These two falsities were, as usual interspersed with the " blame everyone else rhetoric." These two odious accusations are a totally unwarranted slur on the members of The Recreational Fishing Council who have battled on year after year with scant resources and minimal backing from the thousands that they strive to represent. While they battle on, largely funded out of their own pockets, Rod Dixon and his ilk issue declarations of war against the very people that they need to negotiate with i.e. Industry, Maori and Government. Sure the RFC talk to other user groups; that being a normal and necessary process, and they would be failing in their duty if they didn't. Besides who else would Industry, Maori and Government discuss matters with if it were not for the existence of the NZRFC. There are no "reds" under the NZRFC's bed, just a lot of honest intent.

Recreational fishermen need to wake up to the fact that the world, everybody's world, has changed, and resource users have to actively participate in the management of those resources. In terms of the stress on fisheries resources the recreational sector are playing an ever-increasing role. As their numbers, mobility and use of technically advanced gear and equipment increase so do the pressures. In many areas the recreational sector are the most dominant users by far and that situation is becoming more so. Many of the problems that they complain of, such as localised depletion and the like are of their own making. Ignorance and apathy are poor substitutes for a committed and co-operative involvement in the complex process of fisheries management.

That is what the Soundings document is all about. It is a bit of a crock to get one's head around with its new age jargon, but that is part and parcel of today's world. It does however represent an honest attempt to stimulate constructive comment by focusing on the real issues rather than continuing with the endless and unproductive parody of finger pointing and grievance. A certain Wellingtonian, notable for his long-term support of recreational fishing was present at the Wellington public meeting to discuss the Soundings document. I'll leave the final words to Mr John Henderson. "This is the most important debate that the recreational fishing sector will ever have. The NZ Recreational Fishing Council and the Ministry of Fisheries should be congratulated for putting it together"


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