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option4 Update #47 Nov 2004 Print this page

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Fisheries Management

Minister's Decisions on Kahawai land him in Court
by Kahawai Challenge team

The Minister's kahawai decisions have ignited intense debate amongst recreational fishers. With such unprecedented levels of public awareness these decisions always had the potential to be controversial. After extensive discussions the New Zealand Big Game Fishing Council (NZBGFC), the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council (NZRFC) and option4 have all agreed that the allocation decisions for kahawai made by the Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope, are so unjust that they must be challenged in the High Court.

What are the objectives of going to Court

The objective of the challenge is to ensure the kahawai fisheries can rebuild to an abundance and availability that allows non-commercial fishers a good chance of catching a reasonable bag (limit) of decent sized kahawai.

Why are the Minister's decisions regarded as being so unjust?

  1. These decisions are not designed to rebuild the fisheries – they are designed to lock us in to a proportional share while the fishery is at its lowest ever point and recreational catches are correspondingly at an all time low. And still the Ministry insists there is "no scarcity".
  2. The decisions call for a 15% reduction in catch by both commercial and recreational fishers. This effectively means that recreational catch is to be cut by 600 tonnes per annum while commercial fishers will, believe it or not, be allowed to catch 140 tonnes (5%) more per annum than they have managed to catch over the last few years – even after the (so called) 15% reduction in their allocation.
  3. Kahawai, the second most important species to non-commercial fishers is being managed on a knife edge. Totally inadequate information to base decisions upon. A high risk management strategy which condemns kahawai to being fished like so many other species i.e. to the commercially driven "Maximum Sustainable Yield" – a strategy that has not worked for the fishing industry when applied to the finfish species most important to them.
  4. Most of the quota issued to commercial fishers will go to the handful of fishing companies who chose to use purse seiners, often assisted by spotter planes, to target kahawai in a "race to establish catch history" in the late 80's and early 90's. Tens of thousands of tonnes of kahawai were annihilated, much of which was sold for very low returns to export customers such as the Australian crayfish bait market. This senseless slaughter broke the back of the kahawai stocks at the direct expense of non-commercial fishers catch rates.
  5. Many commercial fishers who take kahawai as an unavoidable by-catch are now obliged to try to rent quota from these companies. If they can't lease the quota and the deemed values are set higher than the port price on offer then dumping could become a threat to the sustainable management of the fisheries.

Effects on those who catch kahawai for food

The Minister states in his decision letter - "I note that setting an allowance for recreational fishing less than the current level of use will require adopting other management measures to achieve this.   A reduction in the daily bag limit per person is the most likely outcome, however MFish will provide me with further advice following consultation with recreational fishing interests on how best to achieve the required restraint on recreational catches."

If "reduction of the daily bag limit per person " is used to achieve the 15% restraint decided upon, the cuts will need to be severe. Very few people catch anywhere near the bag limit. Those that do need a bag limit often depend on kahawai to feed their families with fish. They typically fish off the beach or from small boats in sheltered waters. These people will bear the full brunt of any reductions in our bag limit and will have food taken from their dinner tables. So, while we struggle to give effect to the need to reduce our catch by 15% the fishing industry are scheming how to catch an extra 5% - how bizarre!!  

Effects on Maori

It is Maori who have such a rich history of harvesting kahawai to manaaki manuhiri i.e. to give hospitality to their visitors. The ability to do this sustains tribal mana. As fisheries managers move to constrain recreational catch by 15% it is Maori who stand to lose the most - physically, spiritually and psychologically.

Before the Minister sets the commercial catch, he must allow for non-commercial fishing interests including both recreational and customary Maori fishing interests. This is required by statute. The interests of recreational and customary Maori non-commercial fishers coincide to a great extent.

The well documented traditional catches of kahawai by Maori at river mouths such as the Motu River will only recover if more fish are left in the sea.

We also ask, what good is exercising non-commercial customary fishing rights (or recreational fishing rights) if entire schools of kahawai are "missing in action" having been fed to Australian crayfish?

What claims are we going to make in Court?

We intend that our lawyers issue proceedings to review the Minister of Fisheries' decisions allocating quota for the kahawai species. It is envisaged that the legal proceedings issued will seek declaratory and other relief to set aside the Minister's decisions for the kahawai species for 2004, and for future years.

The proceedings will contend, among other things, that the Minister's 2004 decisions are wrong in law, including claims that the Minister's decisions:

  • Fail to allow for non-commercial interests by recognising that such interests have to be "allowed for" before determining the TACC.
  • Fail to allow for non-commercial fishing interests, by allocating the TACC on the basis of catch history depleted by purse seine fishing.
  • Fail to consider the cause and effect of fishing upon this important non-commercial species, in particular, the effects of the purse seining method of catching whole schools of kahawai.
  • Fail to recognise likely imbalances in quota management for non-purse seine commercial fishers caused by allocation of a large percentage of the TACC to the purse seine fleet.  


How can you help and contribute?

The option4, NZBGFC and NZRFC teams have already invested thousands of man hours to develop the challenge to this stage. We have spent more than $50,000 on legal advice, assembling affidavits and gathering of evidence.

NZBGFC and NZRFC have signed off on Engagement Terms with our lawyers. We are lucky to have Hesketh Henry Lawyers representing us with such commitment and belief. They have agreed to generous terms to prosecute what they regard as an essential and winnable legal challenge. We estimate court and legal costs to be at least $200,000. The costs of mounting the public awareness campaign will also be considerable.

Over the last six weeks Don Glass, the Campaign Manager, has assembled a powerful and committed team of professionals, all of whom have agreed to help at discounted rates.

NZBGFC have contributed seed funding of $25,000 with option4 adding another $10,000. The balance of the money required has only one source – you, the non-commercial fisher who cares about the ability of our children to experience the joy of catching a kahawai and bringing it home to feed the family. How much do YOU value this most fundamental part of being a New Zealander?

More importantly, please consider giving some of your time and energy. We are searching for PEOPLE willing to contribute as we say "Stop this Madness NOW"


Your help is desperately needed

People who truly value their ability to catch a kahawai. Dial 0800 KAHAWAI (524 292) or email (preferably) Don at don@kahawai.co.nz. The Support Pack will be mailed to you immediately. The booklet and cover letter will help explain the issues. Then it's up to you to canvass friends and family, people at the ramp or workmates.

If you are not available to help in this direct manner, please give generously by:  

  1. Sending your cheque to us, the Kahawai Challenge Fund c/o NZ Fishing News PO Box 12-965 Penrose, Auckland. More details here

  2. Dial 0900 KAHAWAI (524 292) to contribute $20. This will simply be debited to your phone account. Don't make the mistake of only dialing once.

  3. Register to receive regular Updates on the Challenge progress.
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