Marine Reserve Concurrence by Minister of Fisheries
from Pete Saul
The Honorable David Benson-Pope
Minister of Fisheries
Regarding the proposed marine reserve at the Volkner Rocks,
and the Minister of Conservation's announcement of his approval
Minister, I urge you to withhold concurrence for the proposal as
it stands, and respectfully ask you to concur with a reserve of
0.5 nautical miles around the Volkner Rocks instead.
The Minister of Conservation has refused to acknowledge the very
serious impact the current proposal will have on recreational and
charter fishing in the Bay of Plenty. By reducing the reserve boundary
from 1 nautical mile to 0.5 nautical mile, this undue effect could
be alleviated, while total protection could still be extended to
the area immediately around the Volkner Rocks.
The south ridge area is an unmatched kingfish fishery anywhere close
to the New Zealand coast. It is vitally important to local charter
boat operators, who have for some years adopted a daily limit of
one kingfish per person, and a minimum size of one metre. This is
already serving to conserve the kingfish resource, and large fish
have continued to be plentiful in this area. The Minister of Conservation's
public statement, ".that recreational and charter boat fishing,
although affected by the establishment of a marine reserve at the
Volkner Rocks, are not unduly affected on the grounds that sufficient
access remains for fishing preferred species generally elsewhere
in the White Island/Volkner Rocks area" is totally incorrect.
The phrase "preferred species generally" is an attempt to divert
attention from the fact that he intends to close this hugely important
kingfish fishery, which as presently fished has no effect on any
other species as it is conducted in mid-water.
The Minister of Conservation also states that the current proposal
is "in the best interests of scientific study." Yet, his
own Department was unable to complete their own preliminary studies
of the site because of its extreme exposure. Further studies and
in fact recreational diving will be similarly limited.
Furthermore, the south ridge area has been extremely important to
the success of the kingfish tagging (part of a long-standing Mfish
project) which has provided excellent growth data for kingfish,
and which in recent years has targeted the large adult kingfish
here, which are less abundant elsewhere. The closure of the south
ridge area would seriously compromise the only scientific study
that is likely to be conducted near the Volkner Rocks in the near
Minister, if this proposal cannot satisfy the criteria in the Marine
Reserves Act that proposals should not have "an undue adverse affect"
on fishing, I doubt that any other proposal ever will.
This becomes a very important test case, because if recreational
fishers cannot achieve recognition of the importance of the south
ridge to their interests, it will mean that every single marine
reserve proposed by DoC will inevitably proceed, whether it has
widespread opposition or not. In this case, the submission process
provided 2000 submissions in opposition, while 400 supported the
reserve. It seems the submission process is a meaningless exercise.
As Minister in charge of fisheries, I urge you to push for a 0.5
nml reserve in recognition of the serious effect that the larger
reserve will undoubtedly have on recreational and charter fishing,
both socially and economically.