Snapper bag limits reduced

By Geoff Cumming

Snapper bag limits in the country's most popular fishery will be reduced from nine to seven, and the minimum legal size increased from 27cms to 30cms from April 1 next year.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announcing his decision on management of the Snapper 1 fishery this afternoon.

He briefed recreational and commercial fishing representatives ahead of the announcement.

Sport Fishing Council past president Richard Baker said afterwards the recreational allowance of 2600 tonnes would increase to 3100 tonnes, but this was still below the current actual recreational catch.

"They are playing with paper fish.

"This decision is adverse to the public interest."

Trish Rea, a spokeswoman for Legasea - which represents recreational fishers - said the changes would hurt mum and dad fishers who fished in inshore areas where a high proportion of fish caught were below 30cms.

Mr Guy said there were a range of options that went out in the consultation document, and a broad range of views were received on those. "I said that a bag limit reduction to three was an extreme option and highly unlikely.

"It's great to have the feedback from those submitters, that gave us a very clear view that they value this fishery. A lot of the submitters also mentioned that they wanted to ensure that this fishery is sustainable for our future generations going forward.

"There's a range of measures that means the commercial sector are going to have to lift their socks up," he said, adding that the sector "are going to find things are going to change".

The measures include tackling illegal dumping and wastage, monitoring fish catches and installing cameras and GPS tracking devices on all commercial fishing vessels to effectively watch everything fishers do on board.

Asked if he considered reducing the commercial sector allocation, Mr Guy said: "I considered all sorts of options from the advice that I had. I had all sorts of options to consider.

"I have landed a package that's going to ensure Kiwis can still go out and catch seven snapper. We're going to deal to the illegal dumping to do with the commercial fleet, we have a range of measures to know where they're fishing and it's going to be clearer reporting on the smaller fish that's occurring in the commercial fleet."

He also announced a programme looking at new ways to catch fish, in a "better state".

Mr Guy said the increased allocation of 500 tonnes to recreational fishers had "gone down very, very well with them".

"Mums and dads are going to be very pleased to know they're still able to catch seven snapper a day."

Facing a barrage of questions from media Mr Guy continued to repeat the new laws would ensure the future sustainability of the snapper stock in this area, given the forecast human population growth and expected rise in recreational fishing.

However, he conceded that the new limits on number and size of snapper catch would ultimately reduce the amount of snapper landed recreationally.

"It will bring the average down so it will allow the population to continue to grow," he said.

"If we hadn't made these changes now with the [human] population that's forecast to grow in this particular area, the stock wouldn't rebuild into a state that we want it to be in, and we wouldn't want to be in a situation that we were in a few years ago in the blue cod fishery in the Marlborough Sounds, where it had to be closed and then reopened, and the current limits are two, with still some restrictions."

Mr Guy described fishers in the snapper 1 area as "very passionate".

- NZ Herald

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