Tommy Kapai: Catch limit puts family feed out of reach

By Tommy Kapai

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When we were kids growing up in the Mount, catching a feed of fish was one of the magic moments we could enjoy as a family.

It cost nothing and more often than not it filled the fridge.

Kai moana for us was what kept us going in the lean times like it was for a lot of families and whanau, and a Kelvinator stacked full of snapper was a welcoming sight for many mothers who never knew where the next pay packet might be coming from.

The memories of many a moonlit night out on the Moana in search of that big bugger are some of life's best for me.

Dad was a fisherman so we got to tag along when he went to work, and listen and learn about feeding a family, especially the big baker's dozen one we had.

Sometimes it seems as if it were yesterday, anchored off the entrance in dad's boat the Halcyon, line dangling lazily over the side and fed through the cabin window to where we were tucked up in bed listening to dad singing his Italian war songs long into the night.

Now and then the odd tug on the line - sometimes by dad, to keep us on our toes, would wake us up like a lightning strike.

After checking our bait and drinking a mug of milo we would let Tangaroa rock us back to sleep, in harmony with another war song by dad, as he stood his watch over us and reflected on great fishing days and good mates gone by.

Dad was a commercial fisherman and so too were many of his mates.

One was Alan Wynard who had one of the all-time classic fishing boats called the Tide Song. What a beautiful boat she was and, to this day, I have wondered why none of the flash Pilot Bay pads or ritzy restaurants at the Mount haven't named their dwellings after this classic kai-moana catcher.

Alan Larsen, Uncle Lester, Laurie Jarrett, the Marsh Brothers and Ian Boyce were local skippers who caught their fair share of snapper back in the glory days, and the thought of only being able to catch three per person would have them pulling up anchor and steering their boats straight into the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) boardroom.

If we take away these valuable life skill lessons that many dads teach their kids, by limiting what we can catch for a kai from nine snapper to three- as proposed by the MPI, we will not only be emptying out family fridges but we could be taking away a teaching tool that no classroom can provide.

Teaching fishing skills is a cornerstone of the work we do at Te Tuinga Social Services and we have witnessed first- hand the dramatic effect it can have on young "at risk" boys who have been told for too long what they can't do in life.

Fishing is something they can do and the sight of these young fullas pulling in their first snapper is something special.

The look in the eyes of their Koro when they proudly take him a feed of fresh snapper they have caught the night before is priceless.

Limiting the catch of snapper by recreational fishers while at the same time giving the green light to commercial fishermen seems at best unfair and at worst down right short-sighted.

Reducing the limit from nine to three is hardly worth getting out of bed for let alone burling up and going after the big buggers, and it will have a greater impact than many realise.

At every opportunity it should be conveyed strongly to our decision-makers that there will be a social consequence to pay that could far outweigh the commercial short-sighted one they are proposing.

In opposing this rushed proposal by MPI we will keep alive the Kiwi dream where dads and their kids can go out and catch a good feed of fish together.

Unlike all of the other "instant gratification" demands placed on parents today, fishing for a feed of snapper takes nothing but time.

The good news catch of the day reward is - it leaves memories that will last a lifetime.

Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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