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option4 Update #70 NZFN

Fishing for Food or Profit?

by the option4 team
May 2006



This article was originally published in the New Zealand Fishing News June 2006 edition.

Fishing for food should always have priority over the commercial ambitions of a few select individuals and corporates. In 1986 the Quota Management System was introduced to manage commercial fishing and rebuild depleted fisheries. That same year the Government issued a draft National Policy for Marine Recreational Fishing acknowledging the importance of fishing to the New Zealand way of life.

The policy recognised the dependence of local communities on the sea as a source of food and the need to maintain that access. In addition, there was particular mention of the need to improve fisheries where recreational access had suffered due to depletion caused by overfishing.

Acknowledgement of traditional Maori fishery values was to be covered in a separate policy, as the recreational policy was deemed inadequate to address those.

Moyle’s Promise

In 1989 the policy was finalised and the Minister of Fisheries, Colin Moyle, issued the following statement that is referred to today as Moyle’s Promise,

“Government’s position 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.

option4 believe the 1996 rewrite of the Fisheries Act confirmed this priority access. Section 21 clearly states the Minister shall “allow for” non-commercial fishing interests, both recreational and customary, before setting commercial quotas.

Recreational Reforms

In recent years the Ministry of Fisheries has made several attempts to redefine the management of recreational fishing. In the year 2000 Soundings was promoted as the answer. More discussion followed in the Ministerial Consultative Group (2001) and the Reference Group in 2003.

Thankfully the Ministry’s offer to change section 21 was eventually rejected by the recreational fishing representatives involved in the 2003 process. It was some time later before those representatives realised the full implications of any changes to the Minister’s legal obligation to “allow for” non-commercial fishing interests. 

Shared Fisheries Policy

The Shared Fisheries Policy project is the Ministry’s latest attempt to reform the law and change the way inshore shared fisheries are managed. After years of watching the Ministry make up the rules as they went along, the Minister wants a better framework that will define how much of the total catch each sector can take.


Ministry’s Objective

From discussions held to date it seems the Ministry are putting the fishing industry’s favoured proportional share model back on the table. This is not an outcome the non-commercial fishing representatives are after.

Another Ministry objective is to have changes made to section 21 of the Fisheries Act.

MFish are also determined to find a solution that will “operate within the fiscal constraints imposed by the Crown” i.e. it cannot cost them anything.

When the Quota Management System was introduced commercial fishermen were paid over $128 million dollars to forego the catch history they had built up over time.

The public has also lost access to its fisheries. So why is the public expected to accept a solution that is fiscally neutral?

If too much fish has been allocated to commercial interests then the Crown should expect to pay some level of compensation to achieve a rebuild of the inshore shared fisheries.

Consultation with Tangata Whenua

Ministry staff presented the Shared Fisheries project to Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua and Ngati Wai at the recent Hokianga Accord hui. It was the first time many of the tribal leaders had heard about the process and its implications. Maori were concerned they had not been consulted on the five-month-old project.

At the same hui option4, the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council committed to working with Maori on this project. This commitment is the result of the relationships forged with Maori through the Hokianga Accord.

The objective of this collective approach is to achieve the best possible outcome for all non-commercial fishermen.

Kahawai Legal Challenge

It is ironic the Ministry are striving to achieve more certainty in fisheries management through the Shared Fisheries project and yet this process will occur without the benefit of a High Court ruling on the Kahawai Legal Challenge.

This case is very important because it is the first time recreational fishers have sought rulings from the court. The main goal is to clarify how the law says the Minister should act when allocating fisheries between commercial and non-commercial fishers. The outcome is likely to have an impact well beyond kahawai and strike at the core issue of allocation and who has what rights to the fisheries.

The Kahawai Legal Challenge is not due to be heard until June 6th. A ruling is not likely for several months. The public has given its support to the claims made by the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council, the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, Ngapuhi and option4.

These fishing advocates are determined the Shared Fisheries Policy project will not undermine the judicial process or the public’s first legal challenge on fisheries allocation.


What Next?

The Ministry was due to release their reform proposals by the end of June. Due to a “slippage in the timetable” the public discussion document will not be released until late August. A four-month consultation period would follow.

option4 has objected to this new timeframe, as this would leave the public having to grapple with this important issue during the busy pre-Christmas rush.

Maori and Pakeha fishing representatives are expecting to meet in the next few weeks to decide on a collective position. They are very aware that the Shared Fisheries Policy project ignores the preference given to non-commercial fishing through Moyle’s Promise.

These advocates are also conscious that commercial fishing interests will be relishing their opportunity to influence this process. As will those in Government who want legislative change.

This Shared Fisheries Policy project is the ultimate challenge to the public’s fishing future. People need to stay alert to the opportunity to have input into this process. Alternatively you can choose option4 to speak on your behalf.

Your Mandate

After spending six years protecting the public’s right to fish option4 has gained a wealth of experience dealing with the Ministry of Fisheries. Thousands of people have enjoyed greater awareness and participation in fisheries management through the option4 website. The website www.option4.co.nz has become a powerful tool that has sprung the doors open on MFish processes.

option4 want your mandate to speak for you and your family on allocation issues. Their insight and collective knowledge make them the ideal team to achieve the best outcome for all non-commercial fishermen.

It's easy to give your mandate to option4. Simply fill out the form attached and post back to us or go online to the mandate page to have the experts represent your interest. And best of all, its free!

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