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SNA8 Radich Jan 2006

Recreational Fishos Unfairly Punished for Stock Depletion

Article by Steve Radich

11th January 2006


This article was originally published in the Northern Advocate on 11 January 2006

A never-ending territorial war between commercial and non-commercial fishing is a fact of life. Both parties to this conflict want a bigger slice of the fishing cake for themselves. Unfortunately for recreational fishos, they have long been the baby from whom the Ministry of Fisheries, under pressure from powerful commercial interest, has always stolen the candy.

For better or for worse, non-commercial fishing interests have not been as politically effective as has the commercial sector. Most recreational fishos see the decline in fishing as just another one of those facts of live. After all, they all know that the quality of recreational fishing has been heading down the gurgler since Adam was a kid. The fact that ministry officials seem unable to recognise this simple fact of life suggests that they must live on another planet. Possibly Pluto!

Clearly their highly qualified and well-paid scientists struggle to face this simple and enduring fact of a non-commercial fisho’s life. The vast resource of the hundreds of thousands of man hours spent by non-commercial fishos with line in hand remains untapped.

Clearly MinFish scientists prefer to base their understanding of the state of the fishery on the dubious merit of sampling and of derivative computer models and simulations. It certainly encourages one to doubt that they really care if their models represent anything like reality or not. How could these scientists even know that their models are hopelessly in error unless they spent time at the coal face of recreational fishing, ie; with old fishos and with a line in the water?

With clearly useless models as a basis for fisheries management decisions, recreational fishos continue to face an ever-declining quality of fishing. Not only are there fewer fish about but those that remain are smaller. So a bag limit of snapper that a few years back my have weighed well over 20kg now struggles to weigh 10kg.

By way of illustration, both the decade-old collapse of the orange roughy and the current decimation of the hoki fishery, two of our most valuable deep-water fisheries, reinforce the conclusion that poor quality science has been behind too many management decisions.

With legal challenges to any proposed quota cuts now par for the course, MinFish seems unwilling to stand the costs of defending a more conservative fisheries management regime. An example of the consequences of such a lack of resolve has resulted in the systematic over fishing of West Coast snapper stocks for many years. Now the recreational sector is expected to help rebuild a fishery that has been pillaged exclusively by commercial fishers.

And how does the ministry try to fix the situation?

As it has attempted recently for snapper on the West Coast: by a reduction in the catch across both commercial and non-commercial sectors by the same proportion. Sounds fair enough doesn’t it?  So what’s the drama? First, the fact that the commercial sector has single-handedly brought about the near collapse of this fishery remains unrecognised. Second, recreational fishos are unfairly punished for a decline in a fishery for which they clearly bear no responsibility.

It may well be argued in some other fisheries that the non-commercial sector is equally responsibly for a decline in the quality of fishing. On the West Coast, protected as it is from over-zealous recreational fishing by dangerous harbour bars and a consistently angry Tasman Sea, responsibility for this decline is crystal clear. Recreational snapper fishos now have to content themselves with even fewer smaller snapper.


To find out more about the west coast snapper stocks please go here >> >>

Read the Ministry of Fisheries response to this article here >> >>      



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