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Volkners Marine Reserve

Volkner Marine Reserve Concurrence by Minister of Fisheries

Letter from Pete Saul

1 February 2005

The Honorable David Benson-Pope
Minister of Fisheries
Parliament building

Dear Sir
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 future.
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.
Yours sincerely,
Peter Saul

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