LegaSea has repeated its call for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the state of fisheries management in New Zealand.
In particular crayfish stocks are in crisis. Currently, crayfish in the CRA2 region from Pakiri through the Hauraki Gulf to the East Cape, are at an all-time low.
At the start of the current fishing year the amount of legal crayfish in the water represented five per cent of what was available before large scale fishing.
In the Hauraki Gulf, several scientists recently described crayfish as “functionally extinct”, unable to carry out their natural function. Yet MPI has continued with its laissez faire, hands off stance.
Spokesman Scott Macindoe said: “The Quota Management System is allowing industrial fishing to take place without effective governance from the Ministry that is charged with managing marine resources on behalf of all New Zealanders.
“Instead, MPI has stood back while the fishery has declined to the stage where even experienced divers struggle to find even one legal crayfish in a season.”
Last year 78% of survey respondents told LegaSea that the size and availability of crayfish in the CRA2 region was either decimated or close to it. There was majority support for a seasonal or total closure to rebuild crayfish stocks. In response to public pressure the then Minister brought a management review forward by a year in an acknowledgement that current management had failed.
“Last year we said the situation was reaching crisis point,” Macindoe said. “Now we have the Ministry conducting a consultation process that gave the public only 18 working days to respond.
“LegaSea and the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council are asking members of the public to tell the Minister just what they believe needs to be done to save this fishery.”
“Commercial fishers have doubled their cray potting effort over the past 16 years and yet they are catching fewer crays now than what they were at the beginning of the century.
“By all independent measures the stock is collapsing. This isn’t about recreational and customary rights versus commercial rights, it’s about ensuring sustainability and healthy ecosystems taking priority, and it’s about protecting the resource for our kids and future generations. “We need to stop this madness in CRA2. We need a total overhaul of the Quota Management System and we need a new way to oversee New Zealand’s fisheries.”
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Cameras on boats vital
LegaSea also called on Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash to stand firm against industry pressure to dump cameras and electronic monitoring on commercial fishing boats.
It has challenged fishing industry claims that it uses best practice, and that cameras and other forms of monitoring are not required.
Dave Turner, director of Fisheries Management at the Ministry for Primary Industries has been quoted saying, “We estimate that if we found the golden bullet to stop discarding, we would probably put over half of the inshore fleet out of business overnight…” This admission alone should be enough to continue with the surveillance cameras.
“Fisheries Management can’t quantify the tonnages involved but we suspect they are significant to the point that they are impacting on stocks,” said Turner.
While many boats are run professionally, some fishers operate illegally. They are difficult to catch because offending is easily hidden far out at sea.
LegaSea spokesman Scott Macindoe said: “We know from the ‘Sea Around Us’ research that the industry dumps more fish than it lands.
“We know that the industry was happy to have cameras when they were run by its own privately-held company, and we know that the industry lost the footage recorded in the early trials.