New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council
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Ministry of Fisheries
PO Box 1020
27 February 2004
Big Game Fishing Council Submission on the introduction of new species
to the Quota Management System October 2004
NZ Big Game Fishing
The NZ Big Game Fishing Council
(NZBGFC) was formed in 1957 to act as an umbrella group for sport
fishing clubs and to organise a tournament that would attract anglers
from around the world. Club membership has grown steadily and we
now represent over 33,000 members in 61 clubs spread throughout
NZ. We still run New Zealand's only nation-wide fishing tournament,
which has evolved over time and remains successful.
- Yellowfin tuna are a key target species in the Bay of Plenty
over spring and summer. The population centres and holiday destinations
in the Bay of Plenty have 10 gamefish clubs affiliated to the
NZBGFC with a combined membership of 15,000. Recreational fishing
charter boats work out of many of the ports, with the largest
fleets in Tauranga and Whakatane. Many fishers from Auckland,
Waikato and the volcanic plateau travel to the Bay of Plenty to
enjoy marine recreation and catch big fish.
- Yellowfin tuna are also a highly regarded component of the catch
in blue water fishing grounds on both the east and west coasts
of the North Island. They are fast, strong swimmers and can be
a real test of an angler's skill. Yellowfin are excellent to eat
whether fresh or smoked.
- New Zealand seems to be on the edge of yellowfin tuna distribution
with availability varying greatly from year to year. Some years
they form a significant proportion of the catch of NZBGFC affiliated
clubs. A large number of unrecorded yellowfin are kept for food
or released in some seasons.
- In the 2000-01 fishing season yellowfin tuna was officially
included in the gamefish tag and release programme. This is a
collaborative research project between MFish, NZBGFC and fishers.
Prior to this recreational and commercial fishers were asked not
to tag yellowfin. Overall about 1000 yellowfin have been tagged
resulting in 9 recaptures, all from the southwest Pacific (Gamefish
Tagging Newsletter, December 2003).
- The commercial catch of yellowfin appears to be consistently
below that of other tunas such as albacore, bigeye and southern
bluefin. Even the highest year of combined Japanese and Korean
catch was 190 tonnes (MFish IPP data) and their boats were setting
a lot more hooks each year than the domestic fleet does now. What
is unknown is the number of yellowfin released or discarded because
they were considered too small to be marketed.
- The highest catch for the domestic fleet was 193 tonnes in 1995-96
season (MFish IPP data). Since that time the number of
domestic surface longliners has expanded and then last season
contracted. It seems that fishing has been hard and now that the
catch history years for allocation of tuna quota have been established
many surface longline fishers have left the fishery. We have also
heard from several fishers who intend to switch fisheries as soon
as tuna and swordfish enter the QMS. They do not want to buy swordfish
and shark quota and pay the higher compliance costs that come
with the QMS.
- Surface longlining is a high risk fishery. It only takes one
bad season to put a large number of owners in financial trouble,
especially if they have borrowed to get into the fishery. An Australian
report on swordfish concludes " An important lesson from this
review is the need to put into place a comprehensive suite of
mechanisms to control fishing effort before geographical expansion
and overcapitalisation commence." There has been no effort
controls so far for domestic fishers in New Zealand. It is our
view however, that the commercial fleet will be smaller next season
than in the last 5 years.
- Yellowfin are an important component of recreational catch but
our catch is more variable than reported commercial landings.
We are far more dependant on yellowfin arriving and staying in
accessible waters. The best seasons have been when yellowfin stay
in the Bay of Plenty and chase baitfish into 'meat balls' on the
surface. When marlin fishers switched from slow trolling skip
baits to lure fishing at higher speeds, around 1990, their bycatch
of yellowfin increased.
- Some years yellowfin represent a significant proportion of recorded
catch by gamefish clubs. For example in the 1996-97 season 27
clubs reported weighing a total of 5282 fish of all species, 44%
of these (2325) were yellowfin. The average weight for the Bay
of Islands Swordfish Club was 24.8kg that year. NZBGFC clubs generally
have a rule that yellowfin must exceed line weight or 15kg to
be accepted into the records. Assuming a conservative average
weight of 20kg, the reported catch would be about 46.5 tonnes
that season. A large number of yellowfin caught by non-members
or smaller than 15kg or would have gone unreported that season.
- The MFish proposal suggests that a new or exploratory fishery
for bigeye and yellowfin could be developed in the Kermadec area.
New Zealand is a signatory to the FAO 'Code of Conduct for Responsible
Fishers'. The Code states that: " In the case of new or exploratory
fisheries, States should adopt as soon as possible cautious conservation
and management measures, including, inter alia, catch limits and
effort limits. Such measures should remain in force until there
are sufficient data to allow assessment of the impact of the fisheries
on the long-term sustainability of the stocks, whereupon conservation
and management measures based on that assessment should be implemented.
The latter measures should, if appropriate, allow for the gradual
development of the fisheries " MFish has allowed the rapid
expansion of the surface longline fishery in the late 1990s and
is now asking stakeholders to support issuing quotas in excess
of the maximum catch.
- The IPP also mentions "international obligations to exercise
reasonable restraint in the development of HMS " (highly
migratory species). This relates to resolutions passed by the
Preparatory Conference for the Commission for the Conservation
of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific.
How can New Zealand ask other countries to show restraint in the
development of their HMS species when it has been promoting the
unconstrained expansion of tuna fisheries (except southern bluefin)
and allowed the illegal expansion of the swordfish target fishery.
The MFish proposal to set the TACC at 150% of the best reported
catch is inconsistent with these obligations.
commercial and non-commercial users
- There is potential for conflict in areas where longline fishing
overlaps with sport fishing. This area of conflict is not something
the QMS can fix. Voluntary agreements have been tried in the past
but have failed as a flood of new entrants joined the commercial
fishery in the 1990s. Recreational fishers have complained of
having to fish around a number of longlines in the eastern Bay
of Plenty in years when yellowfin were around (Bert Lee, Charter
Skipper, pers comm). A more enforceable area separation is required
as entry to the QMS will make yellowfin a longline target species.
- There is also the issue of how many yellowfin are intercepted
by New Zealand surface longliners before they reach the Bay of
Plenty. Expanding surface longlining in the Kermadec fisheries
management area as suggested in the IPP will result in many more
yellowfin being intercepted on their migration to New Zealand
and fewer fish reaching the coastal waters.
- The IPP acknowledges that there is potential for spatial conflict
in this fishery unless it is managed (Para 17). We agree, as it
has occurred in some seasons already. However the only solution
alluded to in the IPP is " the yellowfin fishery may require
inter-sectorial spatial agreement if further expansion in commercial
fishing is to occur ". This however is a totally inadequate
response given that MFish is proposing a significant expansion
in the fishery.
- NZBGFC oppose the 263 tonne TACC as this will allow a significant
expansion in the commercial yellowfin fishery prior to any consideration
of the conflict with non-commercial fishery. The highest annual
commercial catch in the last 5 years was 175 tonnes, however the
average annual catch over the last 5 years was 100 tonnes and
the average yellowfin catch over the last 3 years (as used in
the shark catch histories) is 76 tonnes. Therefore MFish is proposing
a 160% increase over the 5 year average catch, or a 250% increase
in the average catch over the last 3 years, and only when commercial
interests want to increase their catch still further would some
form of spatial agreement be considered.
- There are quite adequate mechanisms in the QMS to allow for
the expansion of new or developing fisheries. Firstly, there is
provision under Section 14 of the Act for an in season increase
to the TAC if the abundance of yellowfin suggests more may be
taken. Secondly an Adaptive Management Programme could be used
to provide for the expansion in new and developing fisheries while
making provision for data collection, other users and environmental
impacts. Thirdly increases in TACC can be considered when they
are required. There is no need to sideline other management considerations
indefinitely by setting a TACC that is far higher than can be
taken by the restructured domestic fleet.
- The commercial sector should think carefully about how much
quota they want issued. If there is an oversupply of tuna quota
(say double what they are likely to catch) there will be very
weak demand for the purchase or lease of that quota. This may
suit the big companies who could gain control of this fishery
at bargain basement prices. It will be the small independent fishers
who need to sell up and exit the fishery that will loose out,
yet again. Is it the Ministry's intent to drive down the value
of yellowfin and bigeye quota?
- Eventually MFish may be forced to allow foreign licensed vessels
access to northern New Zealand if yellowfin and bigeye quota remain
- The recreational sector are becoming increasingly frustrated
that MFish continue to promote the expansion of the surface longline
fishery and only pay lip service to our concerns. We have been
told repeatedly that we would have to wait for the introduction
of tuna and swordfish into the QMS before other management measures
would be considered. The excessive allocation of commercial quota
in this fishery will allow the fishing industry to ignore our
concerns for the next 10 years or so until ' further expansion
in commercial fishing' is required.
- The main points of the NZBGFC submission on Yellowfin tuna are
- Yellowfin tuna is an important component of the recreational
catch for deep sea anglers and is the major target species in
the Bay of Plenty.
- The Bay of Plenty attracts fishers from a wide population base
in the upper North Island and tourists from around the world.
- The availability of yellowfin to recreational fishers varies
from season to season and is reliant on fish being able to reach
- There are reports of spatial competition and gear conflict between
recreational fishers and commercial longliners in good yellowfin
- NZBGFC clubs recorded 2325 yellowfin in 1996-97. Assuming an
average weight of 20kg that is 46.5 tonnes. Fish that were smaller
than 15kg or caught by non members would increase this total significantly.
- The Minister must allow more than 30 tonnes for recreational
yellowfin catch in good years .
- New Zealand needs to exercise reasonable restraint in the expansion
of HMS fisheries to meet its international obligations.
- The TACC proposed by MFish of 263 tonnes is a 163% increase
in the average catch over the last 5 years.
- The number of domestic vessels in this fishery is declining
and will go lower.
- Setting the TACC too high will drive down the value of tuna
quota, shift control to the big companies or eventually lead to
pressure to allow access to foreign licence vessels again.
- Setting an excessive TACC will mean that the issue of spatial
conflict with recreational fishers can be sidelined until further
expansion of the commercial fishery is planned.
- There are adequate provisions for in season adjustments to TACC
and the development of new and exploratory fisheries that will
allow controlled growth from a lower starting point.
- NZBGFC submit that the TACC for yellowfin tuna should be set
at 193 tonnes which is the maximum historic catch by domestic
vessels from the 1995-96 season
- Increases in commercial swordfish and tuna landings should be
dealt with using the Adaptive Management Programme.
- The AMP would make provision for data collection, other sectors
and environmental impacts.