option4 Submission - Draft

This is the draft of how option4.co.nz is expressing the 4 Principles in its full submission which is being worked on now. Please offer feedback to submissionfeedbackt@option4.co.nz on any enhancements no matter how small. This is the result of many days work by a number of very experienced authors.

You will need to print the appendices separately - Printable Appendices


option4 Submission
to Rights Working Group on Soundings

option4 Project Leader
Paul Barnes
18 Styca Place,
Glen Eden,
Ph/Fax 09 : 818-2146
email : kites@ihug.co.nz

Introduction to option4 and the Soundings Document

A rapidly growing affiliation of concerned New Zealand citizens and fishing people have created option4 in response to the Ministry of Fisheries' recently published document in which the Ministry invites submissions from the public as to the rights of 'recreational fishers'.

option4 believes that the Ministry, in the Soundings document, has adopted a set of preconceived and indefensible assumptions about the relationship New Zealanders have with the seas surrounding their lands, whilst at the same time having omitted reference to many important issues surrounding the preexisting rights of New Zealanders to fish and harvest these seas.

The option4 submission seeks to place the real issues in perspective with the added force of reference to the international legal code as expounded and documented by the United Nations.

Consultation by option4

option4 is a task force which was formed to respond to the call for submissions and public input regarding the recently released Soundings document. The option4 groups' membership includes individuals with extensive recreational fisheries management expertise.

Paul Barnes
Peggy Barnes
Bill Cooke
Geoff Green
Jeff Romerill
Grant Dixon
Diane O'Sullivan
Sandra Goudie
Bob Burstall
Keith Ingram
Bill Ross
John Chibnall
Scott Mcindoe
Ray Everson
Tony Orman
Roy Arnold
Alan McMillan
Dick Marquand.
John Eichelsheim
Mark Airey

Already option4 is aware of over 50,000 individuals from throughout the country whose submissions are based on the four principles developed by the option4 group.

option4 is determined to ensure all possible options for the future management of recreational fishing are considered on their merits and are debated as widely as possible.

To this end option4 has developed a web site. This site has allowed option4 to provide a transparent forum in which anyone with access to a computer can present their views and have them considered. The minutes of all option4 meetings are posted on this web site. It is evident that this web site has provided a powerful national debating forum throughout the Rights Working Group public consultations.

Widespread debate and consideration of the issues has also been promoted by option4 through articles in the public and fishing media throughout the country with the effect of generating considerable awareness among the fishing public who are as yet unaware of the proposed redefinition of the public rights to harvest in the marine environment. Extendsive discussion on talkback radio has further raised awareness.

option4 has also fielded representatives and received overwhelming support at the following public consultation meetings:

Kaitaia, Warkworth, Takapuna, Papatoetoe, Hamilton, Whakatane, Tauranga, Rotorua, Thames, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Te Atatu, Outboard Boating Club (two meetings), Matamata, Pukekohe, Orewa, Sandspit, Dargaville, Blenheim, Nelson and NZ Angling and casting executive at their AGM held in Opotiki, Big Game Fishing Council AGM held in Gisborne, Maraetai Boating Club and Southland

The following clubs and associations have already expressed full support for the 4 principles as represented by option4:

Big Game Fishing Council.
Marlborough Recreational Fishers' Assn.
N Z Boating Industries Association. (BIA)
Council of Outdoor Recreational Assns of NZ.(CORANZ)
Angling and Casting Club.
Tauranga Commercial Travellers Club.
Kaituna Fishing Club.
Stokes Valley Cosmopolitan Club fishing adjunct.
North Taranaki Power Boat Club.
Opotiki Surf Fishing Club.
Waikanae Boating Club & Volunteer Coastguard Inc.
Wanganui East Club fishing adjunct.
Paraparaumu Pac n Save Fishing Club.
Pirongia Angling & Diving Club.
Taramakau Chartered Fishing Club.
Kaukapakapa Fishing Club.
Otaki Fishing Club.
Huntly and District Workingmens Club fishing adjunct.
N.Z. Kitefishers Association.
Clarks Beach Fishing Club.
Bethells Casters and Angling Club. Hells Anglers.
Marlborough RSA Club Inc.
RSA fishing section. Kaiaua Boating Club.
Titahi Bay Fishermans Club.
Raglan Club fishing adjunct.
Bream Bay Club Fishing Section
Nugget Point Recreational Fishing Club
Mount Maunganui Underwater Club.
Grandview Road Sportfishing Club Hamilton.
Bay of Islands Swordfish Club
Albertland Cruising Club
Bay of Whales Fishing Club
Golden years Fishing Club
HBC Boating Club
Kaukapakapa Anglers Club
Kaipara Cruising Club
Kowhai Lady Anglers
Rodney Fishing Club
Leigh Sport Fishing Club
Warkworth Game Fishing Club
Whangaparaoa Amateur Fishing Club
Kawau Bay Fishing Club
Otamatea Boating and Fishing Club

option4 has achieved a staggering level of consensus on public harvesting rights in the marine environment. In addition to the considerable expertise available within the core option4 team, option4's submission draws heavily on the hundreds of written submissions posted both on their web site and mailed to the group, as well as the tens of thousands of supportive submissions made without comments attached. These submission comments will be available to the Rights Working Group.

Submissions in Favour of option4 Principles


CLUB NUMBERS 35,000 plus
TOTAL NUMBERS 87,000 plus


option4 Submission

The Soundings document proposes a series of options to address three fundamental aspects of managing the public harvest from the marine environment.

1. The nature and extent of the public right to harvest seafood.

2. The management structure to manage the newly defined public right.

3. The funding mechanism required for the management structure.

option4 considers a sustainable healthy fishery is the overriding objective of managing any fishery. option4 is supportive of improved scientific research and a precautionary harvest strategy in the absence of robust scientific information. option4 also supports the implementation of effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure safe harvest limits are not exceeded.

option4 considers it is inappropriate to attempt to simultaneously resolve the above three issues with only one round of public consultation. option4 seeks to have the public right determined first, this will form a transparent first step and only after the right is determined is it appropriate to hold public consultation regarding the management of that right. option4 along with the vast majority of those we have consulted with, are also deeply suspicious of hidden privatisation agendas surrounding the Soundings process. The grossly inadequate funding provided for public consultation on an activity which over one third of the population participates in, and which well over half of the population get seafood from, as a result of sharing the catch with family members, does nothing to allay our fears. The option4 submission deals with each of the three points separately. The major focus of this submission is on determining the right in the first instance.

option4 has designed a credible set of four principles upon which it believes the public's fishery rights must be built. These principles reflect the vast majority of public opinion about current perceptions of their rights and a refusal to accept the privatisation of any of these rights as promoted in Soundings

  • That the priority of recreational fishers over commercial fishers be reinstated.
  • That recreational fishers have an area-right capable of excluding bulk commercial methods that deplete recreationally important areas.
  • A planning-right that would ensure any fish conserved for recreational fishers could not be taken by the commercial sector.
  • No licensing, levy or other compulsory funding scheme.

The area-right (option4) or recreational fishing zones (Soundings) have wide spread support. The question is, if these zones improve recreational catches, where will these fish come from in a fully developed fishery? Careful planning and some level of priority will be required for zones to be an effective management device.

The option4 concept of recreational and sustenance management plans are introduced in this submission where fish conserved under such plans can be set aside to provide for some, but not necessarily all, of the future needs of recreational and sustenance fishers. This planning approach can potentially minimise compensation issues for the crown and minimise the amount of quota the fishing industry will have to forego catching to allow for the future needs of the public.

Any planning right which cannot protect those fish conserved by recreational fishers for the future needs of recreational and sustenance fishers will offer no incentive to conserve and such planning processes will fail.

The type of co-operative planning suggested in the Soundings document is rejected because there is no guarantee or sound evidence that co-operative arrangements with the fishing industry can be formulated on all species.

In addition to the four principles already defined by Option Four, the National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries issued by the previous Labour Government's Minister of Fisheries (Colin Moyle) in June 1989 is also endorsed by option4. It is our belief that this policy remains the current National Policy on Marine Recreational Fishing in spite of its conspicuous abscence from the Soundings Document. If the National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries has been revoked, we ask that it be reinstated as government policy forthwith.

The National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries objectives are as follows

  1. To ensure recreational fishers have access to an adequate share of the fisheries resource.
  2. To ensure that the recreational catch is shared equitably amongst recreational users
  3. To improve where possible the quality of recreational fishing
  4. To reduce conflict between commercial and non-commercial fishing
  5. To improve participation by recreational users in the management of recreational fishing
  6. To improve public awareness and knowledge of the marine environment and the need to conserve the fisheries resources
  7. To develop a comprehensive information base on recreational fishing
  8. To improve management of recreational fishing
  9. To recognise and facilitate the potential contribution of marine resources to tourist.
  10. To recognise the dependence of some local communities to on the sea as a source of food in the management of both commercial and recreational fisheries.




option4 believes that the Ministry, in the Soundings document, has adopted a set of preconceived and indefensible assumptions about the relationship New Zealanders have with the seas surrounding their lands, whilst at the same time having omitted reference to many important issues surrounding the preexisting rights of New Zealanders to fish and harvest these seas.

The following option4 document seeks to place the real issues in perspective with the added force of reference to the international legal code as expounded and documented by the United Nations.


A challenge was laid down to recreational fishers in July 1998 by the deputy chief executive of the Ministry of Fisheries. He said that recreational rights and access were being eroded and that "if we don't move to protect these rights - and improve them - that vital part of our culture will slowly be degraded."

He had his own views on how we might achieve this from a Ministry of Fisheries perspective. option4 is a group of experienced recreational fishers who have come up with a plan that really will protect the public's right to fish.

option4 have identified the problem. Managing a nation's commercial fisheries under a property-rights based system such as the New Zealand quota management system (QMS) can erode the food gathering, social, economic and customary rights of the wider community. Such erosion will occur when the commercial component of any fishery is so great that it hinders the existing rights of the people to have access to historical food gathering or harvesting or adversely affects other preexisting social, economic or customary rights.

The creation of individual transferable commercial fishing rights in perpetuity has been clearly identified as an erosion of preexisting Maori Traditional and Maori Commercial fishing rights.

Acknowledgment of the preexistence of both Maori Traditional and Maori Commercial rights has since been given management effect through the customary provisions in the current Fisheries act and the Treaty of Waitangi (fisheries claims) settlement act 1992 However, the preexisting rights of the remaining New Zealanders have not been well defined in law. An attempt to resolve and define these outstanding rights issues through the "Soundings" consultation process, which discusses recreational fishing rights, is underway. option4 believes many of the fundamental arguments that led to the successful implementation of priority Maori Traditional rights are exactly the same as those made by the fishing public.

Soundings ignores these rights in all three options it presents. Option 1 allows the continual erosion of these rights, Options 2 and 3 seek to privatise all non-commercial harvesting except for Traditional Maori fishing.

Any argument against public priority in the fishery is an argument in support of the privatisation of the fishery. It is an attempt to tell people how much seafood they can provide for themselves and how much of this public resource they will have to purchase from the commercial sector to fulfil their needs.

New Zealand has a small population base and a huge 200 mile economic zone. This zone produces far in excess of the seafood needs of the population. While a small amount of seafood is sold locally, most is exported. The public of New Zealand who wish to purchase their seafood, are tied to paying international market prices for it. Nothing in this submission will affect the ability of the fishing industry to supply fish to the public.


Before debating 'recreational' fishing rights, option4 has first attempted to determine what is meant by the term "recreational" fishing as used in the Soundings document and explored which other public rights may be affected in redefining noncommercial fishing rights.

The proposition in Soundings that these rights do not currently exist because they have not been defined, and the attempt in Soundings to place starting boundaries on these rights before they are defined, is considered by the option4 group to be seriously flawed. The statement on page 6 of the Soundings document, that "neither recreational nor commercial have priority over one another", along with the statement in the Joint Working Group's vision on page 4, that it is perceived as a "collective right" (i.e.: the right to fish) and therefore not an individual right, attempts to predetermine the outcome and limit the debate prior to defining the right.

Soundings is also unclear on what rights are being defined and what is meant by "recreational fishing". Is "recreational fishing" fishing for fun and sport, or is "recreational fishing" inclusive of every noncommercial harvest taken from the sea except the Maori Traditional harvest?

There are grave concerns among the wider community that, while Soundings debates "recreational" fishing, it is deficient in dealing with other components of the noncommercial harvest. e.g. food gathering and fishing for subsistence and sustenance purposes.

The importance of noncommercial fisheries to local communities along with the economic and social well-being that flows through to the wider public from noncommercial fishing, also appears to be largely ignored. Also ignored is the cultural importance of noncommercial fishing to a vast number of native born New Zealanders. The N.Z. Government must realise that "recreational fishing" is merely a component of a much wider range of existing public rights to harvest seafood from N.Z's. marine fisheries.

The portion of the public who have an interest in harvesting from the sea have become very aware that it is not just "recreational" fishing that is being debated, but the rights of the population at large to harvest from the sea, regardless of race or creed. In short, in many respects, it is a fundamental Human Rights issue.


The New Zealand Government is signatory to:

1.    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
2.    International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
3.    Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
4.    Limburg Principles

Accordingly, the N.Z. Government should take note of its obligations under these international agreements before modifying or limiting any preexisting public rights to harvest from the marine environment.


The option4 group considers the Soundings document is deficient in not considering the social, economic and cultural importance of non commercial fishing activities to all New Zealanders.

The document mentions the existence of only three user groups, Commercial, Maori Traditional and Recreational. No mention is made of any other harvesting sector in the wider community or of any subsistence or sustenance harvesting.

If the term "recreational fishing" as used in Soundings is inclusive of all types of legitimate non commercial harvesting in the marine environment (as stated on page 8 of Soundings) then the Government has certain obligations to consider.

On page 8 of Soundings recreational fishers are defined, "Recreational fishers include many Maori who may be unable to fish under a customary permit, or who choose not to do so on occasions.

Recreational fishing occurs for a variety of reasons, including the challenge, getting away from it all in our marine environment, and for food.

A variety of methods are used, such as hook, line and sinker, scuba, pots and dredges. Recreational fishers may fish from the shore, from a private boat or pay to go fishing on a charter boat."

Soundings has omitted the following methods:

1. hand gathering of shell fish
2. diving for shell fish and crustacea without scuba
3. netting for flounder and mullet etc.
4. longlining for snapper and terakihi etc. from boat or shore.
5. drop lining for hapuku

We are surprised that these additional and well-established customary and traditional food gathering subsistence and sustenance methods, as well as others option4 may be unaware of, used by the general public since this country was first settled, and the many "Maori who may be unable to fish under a customary permit," are not included in the Soundings document.

In the opinion of option4 the failure of the Soundings document to make a distinction between different types of non commercial harvesting must be corrected.

If the people harvesting fish or shellfish do so primarily or substantively for food, then the issue is not about recreational fishing, it is about the public right to gather seafood from a public resource for subsistence and sustenance purposes, to share that food with family and friends and, whether or not that right has priority over commercial use of that same resource. It is also about the existence of well-documented prior access to those resources forming the foundation of that right and the customary nature of prior-access where that forms a part of the culture and tradition of the people.

It is about the right to food, the right to access one's food and to harvest food for subsistence and sustenance purposes. It is a core responsibility of Government not to interfere with these rights or enact legislation that allows others to interfere with those rights. Where the government has eroded these rights, it is also a core role of the government to undo that injustice.

These rights, customs and traditions are not based on race, religion, property or any other segregation of society.

We refer the reader to the following excerpts regarding the above issues:

See appendix 1

for excerpts from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' Fact Sheet No.16 (Rev.1),

See appendix 2

Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Maastricht, 22-26 January 1997.

In the absence of any specific mention of these values, option4 has interpreted the word "recreational" fishing in the Soundings document to be inclusive of subsistence and sustenance fishing and gives consideration to economic, social and cultural values associated with the public's harvest of our marine fisheries. Sport fishing, big game fishing and recreational fishing are included.

option4 is certainly not claiming that all public harvesting is done for subsistence, sustenance or cultural reasons. The point is that public harvesting for these reasons clearly has priority over commercial harvesting rights, and if the creation of the rights-based QMS (Quota Management System) in the midst of these preexisting rights has eroded or undermined such subsistence, sustenance or cultural rights, then it is clearly the Government's responsibility to undo, refine or modify such legislation to meet its international treaty and convention obligations. If the end use of the harvested seafood is used as a guide it will be found that an overwhelming majority of public harvest is taken for food.

Each successful non-commercial fisher will always share his catch with immediate family, and on occasions with extended family and possibly friends. All who receive benefits from amateur harvesting of seafood will be affected by any change in the way the public share of the fishery is defined. In excess of three million people are likely to be affected.

The obvious priority pertaining to some of the rights included in the term "recreational" fishing as used in the Soundings document raises several issues that the Soundings document has not attempted to address. option4 supporters want these rights addressed and protected in law.


Many fishers fish for relaxation, the outdoor experience, getting away from it all, peace and quiet, etc. Campaigns like "Take a kid fishing" also give our young the opportunity to escape the Playstation, drugs and alcohol scene and enjoy a healthy outdoor activity. Health benefits accrue not only to those who share in eating the catch, but also from the outdoor exercise necessary to catch or harvest the seafood in the first place.

However indefinable, the pleasure and pride of achievement in being able to provide fresh seafood for the family table and the enjoyment of eating seafood caught by a family member, should not be underestimated. It is a fundamental part of the culture and custom associated with "recreational" fishing.

Many coastal communities dependent on inshore commercial fishing are now struggling to survive under the privatised quota system. Large corporate quota holders' who control most of the quota, charge high quota lease fees and pay low prices to their fishermen for their catch. Because of the poor returns from harvesting fish, many experienced fishers are moving out of the industry often to be replaced by less experienced fishers or novices. This results in higher levels of wastage while these inexperienced fishers are learning how to avoid by-catch of species they do not hold quota for, and also causes high levels of juvenile fish mortality. This has an adverse effect on the community, other users and the fish stock and allows continued further erosion of non-commercial access despite the QMS.


Since the introduction of the QMS many people cannot afford to purchase their preferred species of fish from the fish shop as prices are inflated by around 30%. This 30% is the cost to the fisherman to lease the right to harvest the fish from a quota owner. With snapper retailing at up to $32/kg in metropolitan supermarkets catching or harvesting their own seafood is the only way many New Zealanders can still eat their preferred species.

Recreational fishing, and all it encompasses, creates a vast number of jobs throughout the economy. Many small communities rely fully on this economy, e.g. charter boats, bait sales, tackle stores, wholesalers, import/export traders, camping grounds and many other associated jobs. Many of these jobs are in regional economies that have been hard hit in the last 10 years.

Boat and fishing gear manufacturers often start out supplying recreational fishing vessels to local markets and then branch out to export their product.

Some local communities are, to a large degree, dependent on seasonal revenues generated either directly or indirectly by non-commercial fishing and the associated accommodation, travel, dining, charter vessels, souvenirs, tackle and bait sales, fuel and boat maintenance, electronics, restaurants, hotels/motels etc. e.g. Bay of Islands, Tutukaka, Tauranga, Whitianga, Coromandel, Northland etc.

A recent survey (conducted by) for the Ministry of Fisheries estimated the value of New Zealand recreational fisheries for five key species, snapper, kahawai, kingfish, blue cod and rock lobster. It was estimated that an annual recurrent expenditure of $973 million for these species occurred. Using regional multipliers, the value to the national economy would be two to three times higher. What is more these figures do not take account of capital expenditure into fishing equipment and boats.

Limiting or capping the non-commercial fishing public under a quota management system as proposed in Soundings will constrain growth and limit future employment opportunities in these communities.

While the Soundings document tells us that commercial fishers won't be happy if quota is reduced to allow for the public harvest, the reality is that, commercial fishers catch around 500,000 tonnes versus the public harvest of around 15,000 tonnes. The commercial take generates around $1.3 billion in exports and profits are not all retained in N.Z. Expenses include many imported goods such as vessels, fuel, electronics equipment, bait, motors, fishing gear etc. The fishing industries catch call of the mid 1990's, $2 billion in exports by 2000 has fallen silent and well short of its mark. A clear sign to option4 that wild fisheries have fallen below their ability to deliver peak commercial catches.

The recreational and sustenance take of less than 15,000 tonnes generates almost one billion dollars of internal revenue on just 5 species it creates many employment opportunities and can potentially grow considerably further.

Using these figures it is clear that the economic value of inshore recreational and sustenance fishing far exceeds that of the inshore commercial fishery. Unduly limiting or constraining recreational harvest could seriously undermine income for local communities and businesses, prevent growth in these industries and severely affect internal revenue gathered by the Government.


While acknowledgment has been given to Maori Traditional and Customary fishing, the Government has yet to acknowledge the culture and tradition that surrounds other forms of customary fishing handed down through generations of native born New Zealanders. Consideration also has to be given to Maori who may be unable to fish under a customary permit," as mentioned in Soundings.

It cannot be disputed that since European settlers arrived in New Zealand, harvesting from the sea or shore to feed friends and family has been an accepted and well established part of what it means to be a New Zealander.

During the Soundings consultation round option4 representatives have had many discussions with fourth and fifth generation New Zealanders who have developed historical, and intergenerational family traditions and customs around harvesting seafood. They are now teaching these traditions and customs to their children in the hope that they will in turn teach their children and their childrens' children.

Unduly limiting or constraining customary and traditional non-commercial harvest for all of the public while giving Traditional Maori an uncapped customary right will be seen as a further and unnecessary form of racial division and may in fact be contrary to the Human Rights Bill


Because of the wide range of public rights that are being debated and the obvious priority nature of some of the rights as discussed, it is option4's firmly held opinion that a priority public right is the only reasonable and just way of ensuring the needs of ALL non-commercial rights holders are adequately expressed. Conversely, if a priority right for all non-commercial users cannot be given then it would be necessary to divide the specific types of non-commercial marine harvesters into sub sectors with each sub sector having its rights expressed in separate legislation, with some sectors, user groups, or individuals receiving priority over commercial fishers and possibly other sectors of society who fish in the marine environment. Such an approach may be unnecessarily divisive and, categorising which group or groups individuals belong to, could be prohibitively expensive and raise further human rights issues. option4 has devised two foundation principles on which this necessary priority could be given management effect.

1. A priority right that is equal to or, in recognition of the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations, slightly lesser than Maori Traditional rights, while being above, or in priority to, Commercial fishing rights.

2. An area right which will allow for the exclusion of Commercial methods that deplete fish stocks in areas important to the non-commercial fishing public, or hinders their ability to reasonably access those fish stocks in which they have an interest. option4 believes that, by incorporating these two rights in any redefinition of non-commercial fishing rights, the Government will fulfil its international obligations, reduce any chance of racial division over access to marine resources and enjoy overwhelming public support for such decisions.



The interface between Public Rights in the fishery and the Commercial sector, and the 3 Options in "Soundings."

The soundings document states:
"The Vision has healthy coastal fisheries as a central component. There is also a desire to have co-operative working relationships with customary and commercial fishers, and involvement of the public in fisheries management. Improving the management of recreational fishing will need to recognise:

  • customary fishing rights for managing the taking of seafood for customary purposes
  • the government's sustainability, environmental and Treaty obligations
  • the quota management system because the government will not abolish this system for managing commercial fisheries
  • the need to consider costs and benefits (economic and environmental) of any proposals."

Nothing in this submission is intended to affect customary fishing rights for managing the taking of seafood for customary purposes.

option4 does, however, have grave concerns over the current interpretation (in Soundings) of the strength of the commercial rights for species managed under the QMS and those fisheries managed outside the QMS.

Both Options 2&3 of Soundings promotes a proportional public share integrated with commercial fishers under the QMS.

option4 has grave concerns regarding the compatibility and suitability of a system designed to control commercial fishing (the QMS) to deliver outcomes favourable to the various existing public rights to harvest seafood. These rights cannot be expressed as a simple minor shareholding in a privately held property right.

The following examples of continued erosion of non-commercial fisheries have happened while the government has been charged with the responsibility of management. option4 knows there is no chance the non-commercial sector could resolve these issues as 2% stakeholders in New Zealand's fisheries as proposed in Soundings.

During the 1970's and up until the inception of the QMS, inshore fishstocks were massively overfished by an overcapitalised inshore commercial fishery. The public were disenfranchised from their fishery through this period as prime inshore stocks were fished near to collapse. Catch rates for amateur and sustenance fishers plummeted during these years.

It is clear from the preliminary documentation and original interpretation of the ITQ right that concerns raised by non-commercial fishers at the time were ignored, as were those of Maori.

Initially, quotas were set at the upper limits of fishing, that would, according to the science of the day, allow the stocks to recover. Despite being compensated $46 million to reduce effort in these depleted fisheries, the industry found several ways of increasing their profits and quota holdings which circumvented the intent of the QMS.

The Quota appeals authority(QAA), which was set up to hear claims from fishers dissatisfied with their allocations, was subject to a rush of claims from commercial fishers. Most were successful and quota on some important inshore species like snapper were inflated by around 30%. The quotas generated by the successful QAA appeals should have been absorbed into the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) but were allowed to accumulate above the scientifically set levels the industry had been compensated to accept. While some snapper quotas were eventually cut back to near the original quota levels, most QAA issued quota is still held by the fishing industry, unjustly inflating the commercial share at the expense of the access of all non-commercial users interested in those fisheries.

Quotas on many shared inshore stocks are set so high they do no constrain commercial effort whatsoever. Blue cod, flatfish, grey mullet, gurnard, hapuku, bass, john dory, tarakihi, trevally are in this category. At best this confounds the allocation issue. Is the commercial share, under Options Two and Three in Soundings, to be based on an amount of fish the commercial sector cannot currently catch just because they have quota for it? At worst this leaves non-commercial fishers competing against commercial fishers who can deplete a harbour or whole Quota Management Area (QMA ) until it is no longer economically viable to commercially fish there. This can leave amateur fishers to struggle trying to catch any legal sized fish missed by the commercial sector. In the following year, as the fishery is starting to recover the commercial fishers can return and repeat the exercise. Scallops, the Tauranga harbour dragnetting saga, the Kaipara, Manukau, Raglan, Kawhia and Aotea Harbour's flounder and mullet conflicts are examples of this flaw in the QMS.

Since the inception of the QMS other commercial methods of increasing their profits at the expense of other users have been well documented and are covered elsewhere in this document.

In "Soundings," Option 1 allows for the continual erosion of the public right to recreationally fish and harvest seafood. Options 2 and 3 will make the public a minor shareholder in a commercial fishery. option4 rejects options 1, 2 and 3.

option4 considers implementing the following two principles the only just way to resolve the above issues

1.    A priority public right that is equal to or, in recognition of the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations, slightly lesser than Maori Traditional rights while being above, or in priority to, Commercial fishing rights.

2.    An area right which will allow for the exclusion of Commercial methods that deplete fish stocks in areas important to the non-commercial fishing public, or hinders their ability to reasonably access those fish stocks in which they have an interest.


Overview ­Threats to the publics harvest.

The Introduction of the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986 was a major change in the way fisheries were managed and lead to a restructure of commercial fishing. There were many winners, who were gifted valuable catch rights based on their catch history and many losers, such as hundreds of part time fishers, who got nothing. Many commercial fishers, disenchanted with the QMS and the new paper work sold their quota to the corporate fishing companies or Government and looked for other work.

The initial allocation of fishing rights under the Quota Management System had not made provision for Maori. The Muriwhenua claim to the Waitangi Tribunal successfully established the political right to a share of fisheries resources for Maori. Considerable effort and expense was involved in allocating Maori commercial and customary rights. There is an ongoing commitment by Government and the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission to the implementation of Maori fishing rights.

Claims have been made that the New Zealand QMS is the best fisheries management system in the world, the envy of many nations. Yet in the 14 years since its introduction no other country has embraced Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) so fully. It is a economic model based on individual property rights deriving from the objective of commercial utilisation of the resource.

There are a number of assumptions, pointed out by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (December 1999), that have had a marked influence on the evolution of fisheries management and the Quota Management System in New Zealand. These include:

The belief that clearly defined property rights will lead to sustainability

That within such property rights frameworks, sustainability can be achieved by focusing on a few target species and thus working the system on a species by species basis.

The expectation that defining property rights will lead to effective collaboration between rights holders The political belief that clearer property rights will reduce the costs and risks to the state.

The Commissioner for the Environment also points out that there is ample evidence from land and forest management experience world wide that the existence of property rights to natural resources does not guarantee that they will be managed in a way that ensures the resources are sustained in the long term.

option4 also rejects Options 2 and 3 on the following grounds.

Recreational and subsistence fishers are not convinced that a property rights regime will meet their long term objectives for maintaining and improving the quality of the public fishery and their individual rights.

option4 is specifically concerned with the following risks associated with the QMS and the potential to cause further erosion of the public share. option4 believes that the closer the public right is aligned with the commercial rights under the QMS, the greater these risks will become.


Dumping of commercial catch in excess of quota.
Dumping of unwanted commercial by-catch.
Dumping of commercial overcatch catch through lack of vessel holding capacity.
Highgrading of commercial target catches for economic and quality reasons.


Quotas issued through the Quota Appeals Authority inflating commercial quota at the expense of other users and sustainability.  


Blackmarketing of unreported commercial catches. Fisher fraud, misreporting of catches by commercial fisherman. Corporate fraud, misreporting or non-reporting by large quota holding entities and exporters.


Deeming of catch to the Crown, in excess of sustainable limits, caused by an inappropriate quota holding or quota lease for the method or fishery the vessel is operating in.


Wastage caused by inefficient fishing gear.
Wastage caused by non-selective fishing gear.
Wastage caused by the loss of experienced fishers, and their replacement with inexperienced novices, through high costs of leasing quota and low landed prices.


Targeting of species important to non-commercial fishers, which are outside the QMS to avoid quota costs and retain profitability and build catch histories.


Loss of yield through harvesting important species, shared with other users, at sizes that are well below the sizes that will produce the maximum yield per recruit.


Lack of incentives in the QMS for individual commercial fishers and/or quota holders to conserve and enhance fishstocks.

The preference of the fishing industry toward high-risk harvesting strategies instead of a precautionary approach in species managed within the QMS.

The race to build catch history in fisheries outside the QMS often leading to overfishing and a stock depleted below MSY

Recreational quota or shareholdings like the proportional share system promoted in Options 2 and 3, linked in any form to Commercial rights, or able to be negatively impacted on by Commercial behaviour and / or harvest strategies, is totally and completely rejected by option4 as an unnecessarily high risk strategy. Recreational quota will require extensive bureaucracy, policing and rules for little or no real gains. Quota-based or proportional options have a real chance of outcomes for non-commercial fishers directly opposite to the rosy picture painted in the"Soundings" document.

Managing a Fisheries Property Right

The cornerstone of the QMS is the setting of an annual Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for a species and then the ability to manage the fishery within that limit. As any commercial fisher will tell you, managing the QMS is not simple. There are lists of reporting requirements and ways of covering catch when you don't have the quota. These include: Catch and Effort forms, Licensed Fish Receiver Forms, Quota Management Reports, Quota Lease agreements, Fish Against Another's Quota (FAAQ) forms and Catch Against Another's Quota (CAAQ) forms and if they still can't balance quota and catch, fishers can pay the Deemed Value for any excess.

A very expensive database was created to store this information and a validation system was set up to check what is put in. In fact, because of the legal status of the information entered on the forms they have to be entered exactly as written, errors and all. This means that when pulling data out of the system it must be carefully groomed before it can be believed. All this effort (and more) goes into estimating one part of the equation: "what commercial fishers catch". But even this is an assumption. The whole commercial Quota Management Database only records "what commercial fishers tell you they catch".

"The principle effect of the various administrative systems, and now statutory amendments to the Fisheries Act 1996, has been to allow commercial fishers to avoid the ultimate point of the QMS, namely to limit the quantity of fish taken to the quantity of quota held." (from the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment page 53) The option4 group sees that after 14 years the assumptions of commercial rights based model are still not being met for the commercial sector. option4 certainly does not want to see the Public rights in the fishery to be expressed as a minor shareholding in such a system as is proposed in Options 2 and 3 of Soundings.

Information and Decision Making

We recognise it is the Minister of Fisheries who is ultimately responsible for setting sustainable limits for our fisheries resources. He or she will do this based on the best available biological information and estimates of the total commercial catch, estimates of the total recreational catch, and estimates of the Maori customary catch provided by the Ministry. Where that information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate the Minister must act cautiously.

Snapper is the most researched species in NZ. Some of the top fishery researchers have fed more and more data into increasingly complex mathematical models, yet there is still considerable uncertainty about what the current biomass is and what the maximum sustainable yield is, hence the need for another tagging programme for the North Island west coast (SNA8), and more importantly for SNA1 (BOP, Hauraki Gulf and east Northland).

For many of the other key recreational species in New Zealand there is only limited knowledge of customary, commercial and recreational harvest, natural mortality, biomass and Maximum Sustainable Yield and there is considerable uncertainty in the TAC's set for these species. The Minister must take a more precautionary approach and manage conservatively especially when potential overfishing will adversely affect the public share.

The QMS needs good quality scientific and harvest data to work. Incorporating recreational and subsistence fishing into the QMS would require frequent expensive surveys to monitor harvest plus more intensive management. Much more money would be needed for education and enforcement as rules and restrictions change.

option4 group knows that there is considerable uncertainty in the stock assessments and yield estimates. The Minister should take a precautionary approach to fisheries management considering the quality of data that he or she receives. The Public do not want an expensive QMS style management system for recreational fisheries.

Maximum Sustainable Yield:

Is a system designed to extract the maximum commercial meatweight from a fishery capable of fulfilling the needs of non-commercial users.

The focus of the Fisheries Act 1996 is "sustainable utilisation". In the Act sustainability is described by Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). However there is no single number that defines MSY for any fishery. Although open to interpretation MSY is a useful tool for defining a level of fishing pressure that (in theory) maximises the annual growth (yield) in that stock. Having a high proportion of young fish that grow fast, and are quickly replaced if caught, produces a higher annual yield than large old fish.

Fisheries managed with the goal of maximising the biological yield will seldom produce quality recreational and sustenance fisheries, particularly when the best estimates of harvest or sustainable yield for many species are poor.

For example: Kingfish and kahawai are both important gamefish/ sportfish as well as being highly sought after by most other non-commercial and customary users. Managing fisheries such as these under the Maximum Sustainable Yield harvest strategy removes 75% of the biomass during the fish-down phase at best, or will leave the fishery near collapse at worst. The larger fish, removed during the fish-down phase, represent a critical loss of value to non-commercial fishers. Our kingfish fishery used to be one of the best in the world, now sadly most of these world record class fish have been exported to Japan for sushi; returning the commercial fishermen $5.00 or $6.00 per kilogram. Despite the fact that commercial fishers are not supposed to target kingfish, unless they have an endorsement on their permit which allows them to do so, a large portion of the fish have been taken by commercial fishers with no such endorsement.The recreational sector has gone to great lengths to try to preserve this fishery by introducing very low bag limits, large size limits and promoting tag and release fishing. Still the quality of this fishery declines.

In the case of kahawai the commercial fishing industry have used spotter planes to remove 75% of the once abundant schools, leaving the recreational fisher, on average, to travel four times as far as they used to in order to encounter a school of kahawai. In areas where commercial effort has been concentrated, many recreational and customary fishers seldom see any schools of kahawai.

The recreational and subsistence fishers want statutory input into the setting of clear management objectives that include the quality of key fisheries, not simply the weight of the harvest. Management objectives such as increasing recreational catch rates or the number of fish caught over a certain size will be required to change the focus of fisheries management.

In shared fisheries the option4 group want social, economic and cultural goals to be addressed when setting Total Allowable Catches. It is not enough to look at Maximum Sustainable Yield without considering Maximum Social Yield (benefit), Maximum Economic Yield or Maximum Cultural Benefit. Legislation must allow for an Optimum Yield to replace an estimate of Maximum Sustainable Yield when setting quotas for key inshore and pelagic species.

"Soundings," admits Option 1 will allow for the continual erosion of the public right to recreationally fish and harvest seafood. Options 2 and 3 will make the public a minor shareholder in a commercial fishery. It is unrealistic to expect the public to be able to resolve the above issue

option4 totally rejects Options 1, 2 and 3 as presented in "Soundings", because they are incapable of protecting, let alone enhancing the public right to fish around New Zealand

The Crown, through the Ministry of Fisheries, has allowed the erosion of public fishing rights through the historical bias it has shown toward the fishing industry. Initially this erosion occurred through the Government encouraging and giving assistance to the commercial sector during the 1970s.

This assistance resulted in gross commercial overfishing of important inshore stocks in which the public also had an interest. In order to save the inshore stocks from collapse, and the fishing industry from destroying itself, the Government introduced the Quota management system (QMS) in 1986. Despite massive compensation being given to the commercial sector to reduce fishing effort, the fishing industry managed to circumvent this limitation by using the Quota Appeals Authority to inflate their quotas above the scientifically set level, which Governments' own scientists said was the maximum level to allow the stocks to recover. Serious flaws in the implementation and enforcement of the QMS has allowed the fishing industry to exploit a myriad of loopholes which have seriously undermined the potential of the QMS . Many of these loopholes still exist today.

The New Zealand public is skeptical when the Government boasts of the QMS being a world leader in fisheries management. While the QMS may have some benefits in managing commercial fishing, many of these benefits are at the expense of the rights of all New Zealanders. The Crown did not question that Traditional Maori Fishing rights were seriously eroded by the introduction of the QMS, and has subsequently legislated a priority right in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) setting process, and area rights to protect such traditional harvest. The crown has yet to acknowledge and address the injustice created by its favouritism of the commercial fishing industry over public access and harvesting rights in the sea.

The previous Labour Governments' interpretation of the commercial fishing right under the QMS, and how it interacts with recreational fishing, appeared to offer redress to the above situation. The following quote is from Labours' National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries: "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. This position reflects Government's resolve to ensure all New Zealanders can enjoy and benefit from our fisheries."

It now appears that, Government's position is NOT clear. A recent ministerial reply to a letter from option4 seeking clarification regarding the status of the statements in the National Policy for Marine Recreational Fisheries informs us "There is some confusion about the 1989 fishing policy and I welcome the opportunity to provide some clarification. The previous Labour Government's fisheries Minister approved the policy. As Cabinet did not consider it, the policy does not have the status of a Labour government policy."
If cabinet did not consider it why does the policy infer full Government support, ie "Government's position is clear," and "This position reflects Government's resolve."
The recent ministerial reply also states "The situation is that neither recreational nor commercial have priority over one another."

The "Soundings " document initiated under a National Government makes exactly the same comment on page 6. Do both National and Labour parties have exactly the same fisheries policy, or is this mirroring of policy an example of strategic policy advisors in the Ministry of Fisheries driving their own privatisation agenda forward at the expense of the democratic process?

Whatever the reason for these mixed messages, it is seen by the overwhelming majority of non-commercial fishers as yet another attempt to further degrade the publics' rights to fish and harvest seafood as progressive Governments continue to fail to address the fundamental issue of public fishing rights.

Labours' current fisheries policy ABRIDGED

Greater involvement of all stakeholders in management of the resource, which is the common heritage of all New Zealanders;
sustainable growth in employment and investment opportunities for New Zealanders; protecting and enhancing the quality of recreational fishing available around New Zealand

Recreational fishing is part of the New Zealand way of life.
Labour will:

  • ensure New Zealanders continue to enjoy access to the recreational fishery;
  • not impose a recreational sea fishing licence as a condition of exercising the individual right to go fishing;
  • not require the recreational sector to operate within a quota, as though it was a commercial fisher;
  • recognise the value of recreational fishing to New Zealand's tourism industry.

option4 cannot see how the Labour Government can possibly achieve its policy through Options 1,2 and 3 of the Soundings document. Option 1 allows further erosion of the public right while the other two options are quota-based and will require some form of compulsory levy or licence to provide the necessary level of compliance with that quota. The fishing industry would accept no less under a privatised, quota-based system. The NZ public are also skeptical that successive Governments would be able to retain compulsory fees or levies for fisheries management purposes, or resist the temptation to charge recreational and sustenance fishers for core Government services such as research and compliance costs.

The NZ public are no longer naive enough to be fooled into believing any compulsory tax, levy, tagging scheme, compulsory membership or membership which grants additional fishing rights to members, or any other compulsory scheme, is any different to licensing. The fishing public are also aware that the Option 2 and 3 proposals in "Soundings" are an initial step toward the privatising of the publics' rights to harvest from the nations fisheries resources. Options 2 and 3 will also allow the Government to abdicate one of its core responsibilities, to ensure the public rights in fisheries are protected, and also to avoid compensation issues where the Crown has given fish needed by the public, to the commercial sector.

Any such attempts at privatisation are, and will continue to be, fiercely opposed by option4.

option4 holds the view that recreational fishing is indeed a right, which needs to be recognised as such. Such rights have priorities over other activities, a principle well established by Government with other rights-holders. Rights are not shares.

Some form of public priority must also be given for "protecting and enhancing the quality of recreational fishing available around New Zealand" if Labour is to deliver on its "NEW" fisheries policy!

The time has come where the Crown must face up to it responsibilities and resolve the injustices inflicted on the publics' fishing rights created through the prior mismanagement and excessive favouritism shown to the fishing industry.

Leaving the allocation of the public right to the discretion of successive Ministers, (Option 1 in "Soundings,") is not supported by option4.

We consider that the public of New Zealand have a "right to fish". We find the concept of a "recreational share" unacceptable, and probably unsustainable in law. We don't believe that it is, or should be, a political decision made by a Minister, but a preferential right defined in law. Furthermore we believe it has already been defined in government policy, we simply await the delivery on that promise.




The Soundings document suggests the following management objectives (the order has been altered for clarity):

  1. Recreational fishers can actively participate in management (fisheries and environmental).
  2. A flexible dynamic management system is in place.
  3. Good research/recreational harvest information.
  4. Good enforcement and high levels of recreational compliance.
  5. Sufficient funding exists for recreational fishing management.
  6. Productive and co-operative working relationships between fishing sectors.
  7. The public is involved in processes like research, management and compliance.
  8. There is a statutory-backed network of mandated recreational groups.
  9. Collective rights of future generations are protected.

option4 makes the following comments on management.

Objectives I to 5 are seen by option4 as essential in any future management structure.

Objective 6 can only evolve over time if the management objectives of each group are similar. Issues raised in this submission indicate they are not, and we cannot see how they can be made so under the three options presented in "Soundings".

Objective 7. The public is already involved through general taxation, used in funding research and compliance through the Ministry of Fisheries, and the employment of a Minister of Fisheries at the taxpayers expense. option4 considers this is appropriate and should continue.

Objective 8. While option4 agrees that there should be a network of mandated "recreational" groups we feel it is critical that these groups should be representative of all non-commercial users including diving, shellfish gathering, set netting, longlining, and also encompass food gathering/harvesting interests. It should not be compulsory for citizens to associate themselves with recreational fishing groups for basic sustenance rights to be recognised and protected. Most recreational fishing groups are currently relevant only for those enthusiasts who make a sport or recreational pursuit out of catching or gathering seafood. It is critical to broaden the consultative network to include all sectors who could be affected by decisions made by the consultative group.

We are unconvinced that such bodies need statutory backing and suspect this is proposed only to allow such statutory bodies to levy or licence those it would represent.

Objective 9. option4 does not consider the rights of future generations to be a collective right or a shareholding in a collective, but a fundamental individual right.

option4 has the following management principles:

  • That the priority of recreational and sustenance fishers over commercial fishers be reinstated.
  • That recreational and sustenance fishers be given an area right capable of excluding bulk commercial methods that deplete important non-commercial fishing and harvesting areas.
  • A planning right that would ensure any fish conserved by recreational and sustenance fishers could be preserved for future generations and not be made available to be taken by the commercial sector.
  • No licensing, levy or other compulsory funding scheme.

option4 has the additional objectives of:

  1. Ensuring the development of a funding base sufficient for an independent representative body to undertake all of its roles and represent the interests of all non-commercial fishers and harvesters.
  2. Ensuring the development of an effective and efficient national communication and decision making structure.

Management Representation

The Ministry, as agent for the Crown, has demonstrated itself incapable of, and unwilling to, represent the interests of the public sector who benefits either directly or indirectly from non-commercial fishing.

As the Ministry now wants to divest itself of any representational function, option4 advocates a national, independent, publicly elected body to represent the recreational anglers interests to Government.

Management Funding

It is the strong opinion of option4 that such an independent, non-governmental body (representing the interests of recreational anglers) should be funded through central government. We see the advocacy, management and protection of public rights as a proper function of government, and there are many different models of allocating funds to achieve this. We suggest that an activity undertaken by such a large portion of the population (which also directly benefits the wider public through the sharing of food gathered), to be at least, if not more important than, arts for example.

We would point out that through normal taxation large amounts of GST on recreational equipment and other activities associated with the fishing public are collected.

Recreational fishers also contribute large sums of road tax and GST on that road tax from petrol purchased for motors on boats that don't run on roads. This revenue stream is enough to support funding this representative group in the activities associated with managing their interests.

Government profits from, and has a vested interest in, commercial overfishing to the extent that it receives revenue through overcatch that is deemed to the Crown. This is effectively a tax on overfishing by the commercial sector. All fishing in excess of quota depletes the resource to a greater extent than the scientifically assessed safe limit. This overfishing will affect sustainability and any rebuild strategy in place at the time. The rights of other users will also be eroded to the extent of the overcatch. The punitive taxes gathered from commercial overfishing are also an appropriate source of funding for a recreational representative body.

The fishing industry received compensation of 46 million dollars in 1986 as a reward for massive overfishing. The fishing industry is due to receive another round of compensation as a reward for developing the kingfish and kahawai species as commercial fisheries, in spite of prior recreational claims that these fisheries were world class sport and big game fisheries. While this favouritism of the commercial sector and its associated costs are accepted by the Government, we cannot understand why the recreational and sustenance sector has not received financial support for a representative organisation. It is long past time that they did so.

Maori Traditional harvest will likely increase over time. The Government will have to ensure fish are available for these purposes and if necessary, will have to compensate the fishing industry for this increased harvest, or take it directly from the public share. The Government seldom resists providing resources for Maori Traditional harvest, why can it not show the same commitment to the rest of New Zealanders, including the "many Maori who cannot or choose not to fish under customary provisions" mentioned in Soundings.

Alternatively the funds could be split directly off from the Fisheries vote itself.

Soundings discusses the possibility of the Crown assisting with set up costs of a recreational representative body. Set up costs without secure ongoing funding will only result in a failure to achieve the management objectives as discussed.

A variety of additional funding mechanisms are discussed in appendices 3 and 4.

You will also need to print the appendices - Printable Appendices