option4 Update #42 NZFN May 2004
Ministry out of Control?
While option4 has been battling the Ministry of Fishery's outrageous proposal for kahawai, the NZ Big Game Fishing Council has been responding to the same Ministry's proposal for broadbill, tuna and sharks. Unfortunately, the news doesn't get any better. Not satisfied with over ten years of unlimited expansion in these fisheries MFish is proposing to set quotas at 150% of the best year's catch history for some species to allow for further expansion. That is ludicrous. Obviously, the Minister needs to take control of his runaway Ministry before the public completely loses faith in fisheries managers.
MFish is sweeping most of the species taken in the tuna longline fishery into the Quota Management System by October this year. The NZBGFC have produced powerful arguments in their submissions showing how the expansion of the commercial fisheries will affect non-commercial fishers. The NZBGFC's submissions relating to broadbill, tuna and sharks are online at https://www.option4.co.nz/Fisheries_Mgmt/index.htm
The illegal targeting of swordfish by tuna longliners and the reality that commercial fishers have ignored the agreements made in the Billfish Memorandum of Understanding have been an issue for the NZBGFC for at least the last seven years. The very rapid increase in commercial catch in the late 1990s was a great concern to many NZBGFC members and many feel strongly that the Minister has been stalling on effective management of this fishery.
Recent Niwa reports have documented the use of shallow sets and chemical light sticks as common practices used to target swordfish in New Zealand waters. Clearly a large proportion of the swordfish catch history on which MFish is basing its Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is not eligible as it was taken while illegally targeting swordfish. Surely they cannot ask the Minister to publicly defend a TACC based on illegal catch history.
The Ministry again have shown an offhand and dismissive attitude to recreational concerns about local depletion of swordfish on the most accessible seamounts. The only suggestion made in their paper to the Minister was that they could discuss proposals to “ undertake a review of voluntary area restrictions at some time in the future ”. The truth is there have been several meetings to discuss management changes in this fishery to provide for all interests. Ministry officials know that as soon as issues of catch limits and closed areas for swordfish are raised, commercial representatives respond by asking to keep the striped marlin they take as bycatch. Voluntary agreements have failed with these very same fishers in the past. The stalemate needs to be broken by regulation and enforceable rules.
Yellowfin are an important component of recreational catch, but our catch varies more from year to year than commercial landings. The MFish paper acknowledges that there is potential for spatial conflict in this fishery unless it is managed. We strongly agree, as conflict has occurred in previous seasons when commercial and non-commercial fishers have been targeting fish in the same area. However, the only possible solution mentioned by the Ministry is “ the yellowfin fishery may require inter-sectorial spatial agreement if further expansion in commercial fishing is to occur ”. This is another inadequate response, given that MFish is already proposing a significant expansion to the fishery.
The Ministry should not be proposing large increases in catch of some species taken by tuna longliners without considering the impact on the other species they are going to catch. The practice of finning sharks at sea has not been addressed and, until it is, thousands of sharks a year die so their fins can be exported.
The Ministry seems hell-bent on privatising, by way of the tradeable quota system, everything that swims – indeed, everything that lives under the surface of the sea. The latest dodge is to put a quota on seaweed. Spiny dogfish go into the QMS in October despite the fact there is a very limited market. And then there are marble fish. What next, spotties?
Are these daft notions Treasury driven? Are they company driven? Or is it just bored policy makers in the Ministry dreaming up ideas to keep their jobs in existence? The Ministry is out of control. We, the public, fund its existence, yet it continues to give away the public resource to commercial fishers.
The Minister has a responsibility to manage our fisheries sustainably and in the interests of all. Non-commercial representatives fail to see how he can make robust management decisions based on such flawed advice from the Ministry. We believe he would do us all a favour by taking control of a Ministry that puts commercial interests before the sustainable management of our fisheries and the rights of New Zealanders.
The option4 Alert # 6 is still online, as is the submission tool. If you haven't already, please go online and make a submission on the Ministry's proposal to allocate kahawai to commercial interests based on catch histories developed using spotter planes and purse seiners. https://option4.co.nz/Updates_and_Alerts/alert6form.php