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option4 Update #19 Sept 2002

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Ministry of Commercial Fisheries?
Sept 2002

Dear [ subscriber ]

This Update # 19 covers the following points :-

  • Ministry delivers latest Fisheries Management Proposals (IPP).
  • option4 makes Submission to these proposals.
  • State of play with the "Rights debate" - or lack thereof.
  • Comment on the election - Party Policies on record.

option4 believe the Ministry of Fisheries has effectively declared war on all recreational fishers with its latest Position Paper. The question must be posed - Is the Ministry of Fisheries part of an independent public service or simply an extension of the fishing industry lobby?

The Ministry of Fisheries presents an annual Initial Position Paper (IPP) on a variety of fisheries management issues to assist the Minister in making his annual decisions regarding the setting of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch. The Ministries 2002/3 paper contains the most biased advice in favour of the fishing industry that anyone in option4 has ever seen.

Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson has stated that the greatest threat to the public's right to fish is the poorly defined nature of our rights versus the clearly defined and increasingly strong rights of other stakeholders.

Well Pete, the way option4 see it, the biggest threat is actually your Ministry of Fisheries, which seems hell bent on taking every recreational fish it possibly can, and unashamedly gifting it to the fishing industry.

For example, in the snapper fishery from East Cape to Wellington (SNA 2) the Ministry clearly intend to severely reduce future non-commercial catches, whilst giving the largely unconstrained commercial fishing interests a massive quota increase.

Future recreational bag limits will likely have to be slashed because the Ministry has given the Minister flawed recreational catch estimates, which potentially massively underestimate the public's harvest. The Ministry are seeking the publics' allocation to be based on, and reduced to, this underestimated level of recreational catch.

Unbelievably, the Ministry advice proposes to increase the fishing industry quota by a further 43% in this very same fishery!

It appears that this is becoming the Ministry's standard answer to the fishing industry continuing to blatantly over catch their quota in SNA2 - to simply give them that much quota, they can't possibly catch too much fish.

This is not new. In 1991 the quotas were being massively over caught prior to the last quota increase. This Ministry has conveniently forgotten the promises made by the fishing industry in 1991 to constrain themselves when their quota was increased from 157 tonnes to 252 tonnes - a 60% increase. If this current Ministry proposal to, yet again, increase the quota to address commercial over fishing is granted it will mean that the industry quota will have gone from 157 tonne to 360 tonne (an increase of 130%). Basically the proposal is to increase fishing industry quota while the public allocation will be slashed to around half of what they are currently catching.

Also, the Ministry fails to give due recognition to the wide range of public conservation efforts made over the same period of time. Voluntary efforts such as increased recreational size limits, reduced bag limits and recreational method constraints. Are the results of these public conservation efforts about to be gifted to the fishing industry?

After reading the latest Ministry advice papers, option4 believes that this Ministry should either come clean and change its name to the Ministry of Commercial Fisheries, and give up any pretence that suggests that there is any independence in its advice, or it should clear it's ranks of the offending individuals.

The culture of bias and favouritism towards the fishing industry by this Ministry of Fisheries has grown over the years to a point where it is now totally out of control. A pattern of behaviour completely unacceptable for supposedly independent civil servants appears to be entrenched in their ranks. option4 believes the Minister of Fisheries should act decisively with enough Ministry heads rolling to restore public confidence and ensure the independence of his Ministry advice.

In accordance with its watchdog role, option4 has responded with a submission on all proposals in the Ministry Position Papers which affect the public's rights in inshore, shared fisheries. Please go here for the complete Submission.

The IPP has been broken down into the various fisheries with the Ministry Proposal, the Ministers Preliminary View and the option4 submission grouped together for each fishery. option4 has made submissions on paua, snapper, tarakihi and gurnard.

The effort option4 has put into these submissions on your behalf has been huge. Over 200 man-hours have been invested in our response to the Ministries IPP. As promised, we have engaged scientists, and lawyers may yet be required if our submission is ignored. If you want this essential lobby for the rights of the public to continue and you want a watchdog with BIG TEETH please read the attached coupon and send it in with your donation. Without proper resources we can only bark on your behalf and most of the people we are dealing with appear to be deaf!

We intend to publish the Ministries' Final Advice Paper (FAP), which is due out shortly along with the Ministers Decisions (due in September).

The Rights Debate
On an even more frightening note, this very same Ministry of Fisheries is now working behind closed doors on a revamped set of proposals on how recreational fisheries should be managed in future. If their biased attitude and blatant favouritism toward commercial fishers seen in the latest Ministry IPP is allowed to pervade the recreational rights debate, we will have one hell of a scrap on our hands.

This Ministry has a poor record so far in the rights debate. Besides putting inordinate amounts of spin on everything it says, it has also

  • Misreported the true outcome of the Soundings process.
  • Suggested option4's primary purpose is to oppose licensing.
  • During the MCG process, agreed to include "Moyle's Promise" as the basis for ongoing discussions then removed the Promise from the Cabinet paper - thus effectively removing the previous Labour governments "Promise" of priority from the rights debate process, going forward.
  • Ignored recreational feedback given during the Ministerial Advisory Group deliberations.
  • Failed to include recreational representatives in the ongoing rights definition process, as promised.

option4 will be following, and reporting on, all developments as they emerge from the dark corridors of the Ministry of Fisheries and become available for public scrutiny.

The Election.
It quickly became clear that fisheries issues were off limits for political debate. National delivered a very powerful and positive Recreational Fisheries policy three weeks before the election and then failed to make any reference to it during their campaign. Labour did NOT have a fisheries policy as such. Outdoor Recreation New Zealand campaigned to the best of their very limited resources. 23,500 people voted for them with some South Island electorates polling as high as 5%. Next time round, this party could well be a force to be reckoned with. The analysis of the political party policies is online and is worth reading.

To those many hundreds of you who have made donations - Thank you. To those thinking the battles are over, think again. The science and legal resources required need to be of the highest calibre if we, the public, are to hold our own. These people are willing to work with us at very favourable rates but it still costs money. Without these resources on hand our position becomes tenuous.

Please send your cheques to:-
option4 Fighting Fund
PO Box 37951


Regards from the team at option4

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