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option4 Update #21 Nov 2002

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Brick Bat and Bouquets
November 2002

Dear [ subscriber ]


Minister Sets New Catch Limits
option4 gives the Minister a brickbat and two bouquets. The Minister of Fisheries, Pete Hodgson, has made his decisions on several important inshore, shared fisheries for the fishing year commencing 1/10/02.

Brickbat - Snapper 2 (SNA2 - East Cape to Wellington)
option4 is really surprised that the Minister has taken the major step of setting a Total Allowable Catch (which includes commercial, public, Maori customary and all other forms of mortality associated with fishing) of 450 tonnes for SNA2 and at the same time has increased the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) from 252 tonnes to 315 tonnes. After taking account of the uncertainty surrounding the recreational harvest he has made an allowance of 90 tonnes for the public, despite the Ministry's initial advice that he should allow only 40 tonnes.

Previously there was no TAC set in this fishery and the fishery was mainly managed by adjusting the TACC and, to a lesser extent, by making alterations to recreational bag limits, size limits and method constraints. This meant that if the catch rates were good and the commercial catch profile was stable or improving the TACC could be increased or conversely reduced if the fishery showed signs of stress. Recreational and Maori customary catches were not needed to be known with a high level of certainty because the overall fishery indicators would give fisheries managers an idea of the health of the fishery - there was no need to determine the explicit tonnages taken by non commercial users. Non-commercial harvest was thought to be around 40 tonnes per year although it was irrelevant whether or not this estimate was accurate.

The Fisheries Act 1996 which came into force last year states that where a TACC is varied then a TAC must be set for that fishery and this meant that for the Ministry's proposed increase to the TACC to happen then a TAC for SNA2 must be set at the same time. The Fisheries Act considers the TAC to be the absolute constraint on total removals from the fishery and the Minister is obliged to manage the fishery within that overall catch level. This means that to set a meaningful TAC the Minister must have all the information on all the extractions from the fishery - as accurate as possible. This is where we believe the Minister has been misled - we believe the Ministry has seriously underestimated the non-commercial catch in SNA2 and that the TAC could be seriously over caught because of this.

There is a huge degree of uncertainty about what the recreational catch actually is in SNA2. The Ministry contended that an estimate of recreational catch of 40 tonnes was appropriate - new research indicates the recreational catch may be as high as 700 tonnes in this fishery. option4 submitted that the recreational harvest was at least 355 tonnes. To set a TAC without ensuring that the allowances bear some relationship to reality surely must undermine the concept of the Quota Management System. What will happen if the Minister has set the recreational catch incorrectly and the true recreational catch is 300 or 400 tonnes. His duty is clear, he must constrain the total removals to the TAC. Next year, will we be looking at having our bag limits slashed by 75% or more to constrain our catches within this new TAC or will the Minister simply raise the TAC to accommodate our actual catch? Either way, it actually looks like the Minister has set the TAC in an expedient manner, merely to accommodate an increase to the TACC with little or no regard to whether the TAC has been set realistically.

What was the rush? Why such urgency? The Minister says that the new ACE quota balancing looks like working in this fishery. Finally, the historical massive commercial overcatch of SNA2 TACC looked like being resolved. The uncertainty regards the non-commercial catch should have absolutely precluded him from increasing any catch limits in this fishery until next year when all the information will be available. To give the fishing industry extra quota is easy - to take it away with what appears to be a reallocation of catch between sectors is the tough call. Lets be really clear, the recreational catch is what it is - not an increase as some would have us believe, but simply a more accurate estimation. We must never forget how hard we were hit when the fish down of this fishery occurred in the 1970's. The fishing opportunities denied, the reduction in catch per trip and the snapper that we have not been able to catch whilst the fishery has been allowed to rebuild for some 15 to 20 years. Just because there are no records of our catch back then, this does not mean that up to date estimations automatically get described as an increase -they are just a more accurate representation of our catch. The Ministers decision and the Ministry's Final Advice Paper are worth reading

Bouquet #1 - Terakihi 1
(TAR1 North Cape to both East Cape and Cape Egmont - East and West coasts)
The Minister has refused an Adaptive Management Proposal, which would have seen commercial quotas increased by 43%. The Minister's refusal is because of the uncertainty of how an increase of this magnitude may adversely affect recreational fishers in this important recreational fishery. A breath of fresh air and a bouquet!

Bouquet # 2 - Paua Fisheries - South Island
Several of the South Island stocks have been declining because of commercial overcatch. The Minister's decision sees quotas reduced to levels that will allow these depleted stocks to start rebuilding. Thank you Minister.

To read the Minister's decisions and the Final Advice Paper from his Ministry, please go to the Fisheries Management pages.

Regards from the team at option4

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