Fish in the Water
This article was originally
published in the New Zealand Fishing News July 2005 edition.
One of the highlights of
being involved in the hui with Ngapuhi and other non-commercial
fishing interests (reported in last months NZ Fishing News) was
the realisation that we all wanted the same thing – more fish
in the water. To achieve this we need to take less fish out of the
In many important inshore
shared fisheries the vast majority of commercial catch is exported.
Meanwhile non-commercial fishers, both recreational and customary
Maori, are struggling to catch a reasonable daily bag to feed their
Current fisheries management
fails to constrain commercial catch within the Total Allowable Commercial
Catch (TACC) in many of our important shared fisheries. These catch
limits were set to a "sustainable" level to ensure we all had a
reasonable chance of catching a fish. Snapper 8 is one example in
a list of many mismanaged fish stocks.
Last month we discussed the
overcatch of snapper on the west coast of the North Island, area
8. In SNA8 the TACC has been exceeded 14 times over the past 18
years. In area 2, from East Cape and down past Wellington the scenario
is worse. Over 1400 tonnes of excess snapper have been taken from
this fishery since the Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced.
The reported catch peaked in 1991 when the TACC was overcaught by
a massive 234%. In area 1, the most popular fishing area in the
country (from North Cape to Cape Runaway), the reported catch exceeded
the TACC six times over the same period. Who knows how much snapper
was dumped as fishers high graded their catch to make the most of
their quota or how many 100,000's of undersize snapper were killed
by trawl nets, set nets or longlines?
All this adds up to the failure
of the Ministry of Fisheries to control overfishing to the detriment
of non-commercial fishers. Commercial fishers can land fish in excess
of their quota but they have to pay a fee called deemed value. As
long as this fee is paid the extra catch is considered legal. MFish
and successive Ministers have disregarded the effects this excess
catch has had on recreational and customary fishers ability to harvest
fish. Worse still our future generations will have less to enjoy.
When the QMS was introduced
in 1986 it was "sold" to non-commercial fishers as a mechanism that
would control commercial catch. Commercial harvest was causing many
fisheries to decline and some inshore species were seriously depleted.
So the QMS was promoted as being the answer to the concerns regarding
declining fish numbers.
At the same time the QMS
was introduced the Labour Government had formulated a policy that
clearly gave preference to non-commercial fishers, us. It was also
confirmed in the 1989 National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries.
Colin Moyle was Fisheries Minister at the time and he made the following
statement, which we refer to as Moyle's Promise –
is clear, where a species of fish is not sufficiently abundant to
support both commercial and non-commercial fishing, preference will
be given to non-commercial fishing. This position reflects Government's
resolve to ensure all New Zealanders can enjoy and benefit from
So what happened between
1986 and 2005? Where has our preference gone? Ministry has responded
to our questions relating to Moyle's Promise by saying the policy
was never passed by Cabinet and therefore was not official policy.
Could have fooled us, the statement quite plainly says, "Government's
position is clear." That's one of the most transparent statements
we have had from any government.
Non-commercial fishers gave
agreement to the QMS on the understanding that:
- The promised preference would be applied,
- The management of our fisheries would be improved, and
- If there still weren't enough fish for everyone, the people
of this country would be given
preference to fish for food over the commercial sectors ability
to export fish.
Or in the case of kahawai,
not to have fish taken from our tables and exported for Australian
crayfish bait. This is not right or fair.
Extracting the last possible
fish from our waters will not satisfy the increasing worldwide demand
for fresh seafood. What we need is sensible management of our fisheries
so everyone has a decent chance to go out and catch a fish for dinner
and more importantly so our kids have the opportunity to enjoy what
the sea offers.
The promise to give us preference
has not been honoured. We have had enough of broken promises and
mismanagement of our precious inshore fisheries.
The opportunity to work closely
with Ngapuhi since the April hui has revealed many common frustrations
of dealing with government departments who do not have the public's
interest at heart. What is encouraging is Ngapuhi's drive to arrange
another hui, this time it will include MFish. The hui will be focused
on how to achieve our common objective of more fish in the water.
We are still developing the
process on how we will work together to achieve the common goal
of having more fish in the water but it is encouraging to get alongside
people with likeminded interests. What can be better than –
maha atu nga ika i roto te wai"
in the water
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