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option4 Update #46 NZFN Sep 2004

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Kahawai – Who's saying what?

NZ Fishing News
Sept 2004


Kahawai is one of the most, if not THE most important recreational species we have in our waters.

Recently the Ministry of Fisheries announced the 'rules' for its inclusion in the Quota Management System and not done recreational and subsistence fishers any favours.

The following is a summary in brief of the various positions those involved have taken.

Scientists and fisheries managers

With 18 years of Quota Management System under their belts one would expect there would be plenty of good science available and reliable information upon which to base sound fisheries management decisions for kahawai. After all, it is the second most important non commercial fish species and the last big fishery to be introduced to the QMS. Sadly, the opposite prevails – scarce information of a very uncertain nature

Ministry Policy and Fisheries Management managers

Complete failure to differentiate kahawai for management purposes. No management plan suggested to rebuild this obviously decimated species. Lets just jam it in to the QMS and (mis)manage it like all the other commercial fisheries – BMSY or bust – whatever comes first. Bizarre!

Fishing Industry

Whilst the Ministry recommendations mean that most commercial fishers will be disadvantaged with their final Quota allocation (based on 1991/92 catch history) they are strangely silent on this most salient point. The purse seiners, on the other hand, have floated outrageous claims of job losses, fleet feasibility and general meltdown if their illegitimate target fishing for kahawai is in any way discounted. Those who stole the fish stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of the quota allocation. Those who sold our precious kahawai for next to nothing for cray bait etc will be able to carry on doing exactly that.

Customary Maori

Those who stand to be disadvantaged most have not , by and large, submitted on the management of this most important traditional species. It is Maori who have such a rich history of utilising kahawai to manaaki manuhiri – www.option4.co.nz/manaaki.htm It is Maori who will lose out most as the Ministry attempts to give effect to their recommendation to reduce the non commercial harvest of kahawai by 15%. The Ministry, in their infinite wisdom, have "cooked the books" when recommending allowances for Customary Maori. Having said that, what good is a Customary Fishing Permit or simply the investment in a day out fishing for food if the missing schools of kahawai have been fed to Australian crayfish?

Recreational fishers

Ever since the introduction of purse seining we have been objecting. Over 2000 individuals, clubs and representative organisations have made submission to the setting of Total Allowable Catch and allocation of Total Allowable Commercial Catch (quota) – we have been incredibly consistent throughout our submissions. Sadly, this huge input has been dismissed as anecdotal and is not adequately reflected in the final recommendation from Ministry to their Minister.

The Minister of Fisheries

His press release 10/8/04 states " Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has announced an overall 15 per cent reduction in the amount of kahawai that can be caught to safeguard the popular fish species but has given recreational fishers the lion's-share of the catch" No way – he has not "given" us anything other than the leftovers of yet another commercially demolished inshore shared fishery. Instead he has given quota to purse seiners - much more than they have managed to catch of recent years - and the go ahead to continue to fish down this vital species. He has not given any direction as to how kahawai will be rebuilt. In fact he goes on to state (on National Radio   11/8/04) "As part of this Government, I'm also very keen on supporting the industry and jobs, both on boats and in processing" . At least we know where we stand.

The Politicians

Larry Baldock and his colleagues of United Future/Outdoor Recreation NZ have invested big time in understanding the issues. Thank you, Larry. As a result he and his Party introduced a Supplementary Order Paper to Parliament in August aiming to delay the introduction of kahawai to the QMS for 12 months in order to allow for better information and more informed debate to occur. National's Phil Heatley clearly supported the SOP – well done. However the SOP was defeated by ACT voting with Labour. Jeanette Fitzsimons and the Greens also voted with Labour, however, only after negotiating vigorously with the Minister to achieve a written commitment from him to review the decision and science next year. New Zealand First's Winston Peters let his supporters down badly, by firstly using his question time opportunities in Parliament to fire cheap shots at other political parties, thus forgoing his opportunity to focus debate on the issues, and secondly, by abstaining on the SOP vote. Poor form!

After the debate in Parliament Larry Baldock said, " sometimes doing the right thing is much simpler than playing politics. I am disappointed by the lack of integrity shown by other parties but the battle doesn't end at this point". The debate can be read online at https://option4.co.nz/Fisheries_Mgmt/kahawai.htm


The Problem

We consider the kahawai fishery to be a public resource, which the Ministry of Fisheries have knowingly allowed to be decimated by condoning the development of an industrial-scale purse seine fishery in the midst of the most accessible and second most important non-commercial fishery. It is unarguable that the catch history developed by the purse seiners has been gained at the direct expense of all non-commercial users by reducing the availability and size of fish able to be caught.

Under the current decision, allowable commercial catch of kahawai will increase beyond what they have been able to catch in recent years. At the same time recreational fishers will be expected to cut their already poor catches by 15%.   This is unfair, unjust and completely unacceptable.

If there is any genuine claim against the Ministry for reallocating catching rights it is the claim that has been brought by recreational fishers – that the purse seiners have stolen our fish. For the Minister to suggest we need to reduce our take by 15% so the rape and pillage can continue is outrageous. Does he expect people to take a bag limit reduction down to 3 or 4 kahawai just so the commercial sector can continue to supply crayfish bait to overseas markets? We don't think so.


The Solution

The fish stolen from the public must be returned. How can this be achieved?

  • Issue sufficient quota to cover genuine by-catch;
  • Discount the purse seine catch history because it has been developed at the expense of other users;
  • Consider, if necessary, compensating the purse seine fishers for the unforgivable Ministry blunder of allowing the purse seine fishery to be developed in the first place.
  • If necessary, take legal action to challenge the Ministry advice given that led to the decision.


To be successful, your support is essential!

The Minister's current decision is absolutely unacceptable. The decision leaves us no alternative but to use all of our available resources to have the kahawai decision overturned. Together with the NZRFC and NZBGFC, we have met with legal counsel to advise us on legal action options. A decision will have been made by the time you read this.

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