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option4 Update #32 October 2003

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option4s 3rd Principle

Planning for the Future
October 2003

Dear [ supporter ]

Planning for the Future
During the Soundings public consultation process to reform the public right to fish for food, four principles were established that have subsequently been endorsed by all of the representative organisations working so hard to secure a strong public fishing right.

Principle # 3, the Planning Right
"The ability to devise plans to ensure future generations enjoy the same or better quality of rights while preventing fish conserved for recreational use being given to the commercial sector".

We are often asked, what does this "planning right" actually mean?

It states we believe we need to conserve fish and not catch all of the fish that we could catch as of right. We want to see those conserved fish remain in the water, grow and breed.

A Planning Right would allow for the inevitable growth and shifts in our population and the likely increase in the popularity of fishing. The expensive retail prices that we are expected to pay because we are competing against global markets for the harvest from our precious inshore fisheries will undoubtedly encourage more people to fish for food more often in the future.

However, at the moment there is no incentive for the public to conserve fish when we operate within a system that sees fish conserved by the public allocated to the fishing industry. Last year in the infamous Snapper 2 Fisheries Management Allocation decision making process we saw that fishery have a Total Allowable Catch set for the first time. In their Initial Position Paper the Ministry of Fisheries recommended to their Minister that the commercial catch be increased from 252 tonnes to 360 tonnes, a 43% increase. Then, in the same paper, they recommended a mere 40 tonne allocation be made to allow for the public. Little effort has been made to accurately estimate the extent of public harvest in SNA 2 and estimates vary widely. The Ministry has no real idea what the actual public catch is. However, the Minister, to his credit, wound up allowing the public 90 tonnes, about a third of what we are probably catching (conservatively).

However, the really ugly aspect of this decision making process was the failure to acknowledge, reference or take into account the effects and benefits of the four voluntary conservation measures that the public have embraced during the last 15 years.

What are the conservation measures that the public now so readily comply with? Firstly, the introduction of bag limits; secondly, the reduction of those daily catch limits to 15 snapper per person; thirdly, the further reduction of our bag limit to 10 snapper (SNA 2) per person and finally the increase in the minimum legal size from 25 cm to 27 cm. The fishing industry continues to legally catch vast numbers of 25 cm snapper and destroy (legally) unknown tonnages of smaller snapper with their heavy, indiscriminate trawl methods.

It is this inability and refusal by the Ministry of Fisheries to acknowledge and factor these conservation measures into their allocation process that will ultimately be the undoing of the QMS. We must have the right to plan for increased population and fishing effort without seeing the benefits passed over to the fishing industry that profits from an insatiable global demand for fish. To deny us that right flies in the face of common sense, good management and our very right to fish for food, now and into the future.

Customary Maori Fisheries Management Tools
Another frequently asked question is how does the Planning Right work with customary Maori fishing rights and customary fisheries management mechanisms? Firstly, when we talk about the public's right to fish for food we believe that this includes Maori when they do not elect to fish with a permit to provide for the purposes of their marae (eg tangi and hui). We believe that Maori, when fishing for food, do so as a member of the New Zealand public. Maori make up a large percentage of food fishers and are possibly the largest participants when analysed by ethnic grouping.

More recently we have realised that the public also need a planning right to help contribute to the management of the intertidal shellfisheries. It is obvious that the current MFish management regime for public harvest of these shellfisheries is not working, especially in metropolitan areas. We see the ability of the public to promote area closures and more appropriate harvesting regimes as essential. Obviously this planning right/ability needs to be implemented carefully alongside the Maori customary management rights and mechanisms recognised in the Deed of Settlement 1992 and legislated in the Fisheries Act. We have consistently recognised and acknowledged the potential of these rights.

The planning right we envision has the potential to address entire fisheries as well as contribute to area specific issues, including the intertidal zone. Shifting the attitudes and expectations of the public en masse - in both area and fishery - is surely the holy grail of marine environmental protection.

Regards from the option4 team

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