Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Trawler-free gulf finds big support in survey

The commercial catch limit has not been lowered. Photo / Greg Bowker
The commercial catch limit has not been lowered. Photo / Greg Bowker

More than half of New Zealanders think commercial fishing should be banned in the Hauraki Gulf, according to a Herald-DigiPoll survey.

This is despite a Government review which recommended the commercial catch limit should not be lowered.

Instead, smaller size and bag limits for recreational fishermen were announced for the fisheries management area which covers Auckland, Northland and the Bay of Plenty.

But 52.8 per cent of respondents in the Herald-DigiPoll survey thought commercial fishing should be banned in the Hauraki Gulf because it would help to replenish stocks for recreational fishing.

Twenty-nine per cent believed the fishing allowance for each group was appropriate because it was based on scientific surveys.

Auckland residents were most likely to agree to the ban at 55.7 per cent, compared with 51.3 per cent for those who lived elsewhere.

The fear of drastic cuts to daily bag limits drew 47,709 submissions in a Save our Snapper campaign by recreational fishing lobby group LegaSea.

National programme director Mandy Kupenga said the support for a ban shown in the poll was no surprise.

"LegaSea would love to see recreational fishers given priority over the commercial fishing sector."

The Government decided to leave the commercial size limit at 25cm and the quota untouched while adjusting the size and bag limits for recreational fishers.

Changes to the fishery's management included cutting the recreational bag limit for snapper from nine to seven and raising the minimum size limit from 27cm to 30cm.

But Dave Moore, a Leigh-based commercial long-line fisherman, said regulations controlled where and when certain types of fishing took place in the gulf.

He said electronic and observer monitoring for the trawl fleet could be introduced in answer to claims of dumping of unwanted fish.

Mr Moore's company, Wild Fish NZ, operates five long-line vessels and he said the fishing stocks were in better shape than 30 years ago.

Snapper numbers were reported as 70 per cent up over the past 15 to 20 years, but still only about half the level of the management target, according to the Government review.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the best available scientific information recommended holding the commercial total allowable catch at 4500 tonnes a year.

He also increased recreational fishers' rights by 500 tonnes - to 3050 tonnes - total allowable catch and flagged his intention to move towards a 50/50 sharing over time.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 26 Nov 2014 17:19:18 Processing Time: 488ms