Legasea Update: Fish quota debate heating up

Manukau sport fishing club members sharing fish (kai).

When LegaSea was first invited to have input into The Future Catch project by Dr Randall Bess we were excited because the project was described as ‘a well funded study to improve recreational fishing’. It didn’t take long to realise this was yet another attempt to upgrade commercial rights to our fisheries and remove the Minister’s discretionary powers that protect our fishing and environmental interests.

It is vital to retain this Ministerial discretion as a defence for managing our fisheries in the best interests of all New Zealanders, not just for a handful of corporate quota shareholders.

The project’s third report was presented to the Minister in late 2017. LegaSea did not support its recommendations which are to use current settings as a basis for allocating a defined proportion of each fishery for public use. Any proportional allocation scheme like this is unfair because it takes away the Minister’s legal obligation to provide abundance for our kids’ futures.

To achieve real abundance, and allow a fair go for future generations, recreational harvesting must remain outside the failing quota system. Importantly, we must retain our ability to conserve fish by leaving them in the water and not have them scooped up and exported for low value returns.

Since time immemorial saltwater fishing and diving have been an integral part of our Kiwi lifestyle. In the old days the primary objective was sustenance for the family. Nowadays these activities represent a social event with family, an opportunity to take time-out from worklife or to spend precious time outdoors with the young ones.

Given the significance of recreational fishing and diving the Minister must remain free to make sustainable catch and allocation decisions. The commercial wild fish catch is over 400,000 tonnes per year with our collective recreational harvest estimated to be under 11,000 tonnes, yet the recreational harvest is being promoted as the major flaw in New Zealand’s fisheries management.

Let’s get real. Even the Ministry admits dumping from commercial vessels is “the single biggest issue we face in our wild stock fisheries”. In 2014 the Director of Fisheries Management said they couldn’t quantify the tonnages involved but did say, “we suspect they are significant to the point that they are impacting on stocks”.

The Ministry’s failure to prosecute those responsible for dumping tonnes of fish is a travesty. Clearly the promises of husbandry, efficiency and innovation have long gone, overtaken by the relentless drive by quota shareholders to squeeze a buck out of our fisheries, and to sideline recreational interests.

It’s time for the Minister to wrest back control of our fisheries, apply a good dose of kaitiakitanga [guardianship] and establish policies that will deliver on the sustainability obligations we all have to our kids and theirs. Ministerial discretion must stay.

Fisheries Management Annual Report

LegaSea is grateful to New Zealand Underwater for providing a summary of their year’s activities for including in the LegaSea-New Zealand Sport Fishing Council Fisheries Management Annual Report 2017. The report can be downloaded at www.nzsportfishing.co.nz/userfiles/file/FM-Annual-Report-2017-web.pdf

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