Angry fishers unimpressed

By Mike Barrington

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Many recreational fishers who attended a Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) consultation meeting in Whangarei on possible reductions to the recreational snapper bag limit on Northland's east coast left frustrated and disappointed.

The "drop-in information session" format for the meeting involved fishers viewing information displayed around the Old Library in Rust Ave, discussing issues of concern with nine MPI staff present, and collecting an 82-page ministry discussion paper on the fishery and other information, including how to make submissions by August 23 on three options for change.

The options include reducing the recreational bag limit from nine to three per person when changes to the management of the Snapper 1 fishery take place on October 1.

Thursday's meeting was attended by an estimated 250 people, several of whom said they would not have the known the consultation was taking place if they hadn't seen a report about it in the Northern Advocate last week.

There were about 30 people at a similar meeting at Albany on Wednesday.

John Gwillim was typical of the fishers at the Whangarei meeting; disappointed there was no presentation, "just posters extracted from the discussion paper".

Fishing was not a recreational activity, but a religion in Northland, he said. "With the 82-page document full of scientific acronyms and gobbledegook, it all seemed designed to discourage the average person from participating."

Former commercial fisherman turned recreational fishing guru Paul Barnes, of Whangarei, gathered about 40 people around him in a library alcove when he spoke out, claiming the MPI review sought privatisation of the snapper fishery by stealth and he warned: "If we don't act, they will roll over us."

Mr Barnes attributes any problems in the snapper fishery to commercial fishing practices such as dumping, deeming, high-grading, and juvenile snapper deaths in trawl nets.

He estimates commercial fishing kills about two million juvenile snapper annually and there would be up to 40,000 more tonnes of snapper in the Snapper 1 fishery, which includes Northland, if these fish could be saved.

"MPI should resolve these mortality issues before reducing the recreational catch limit," Mr Barnes said.

LegaSea's Steve Sangster said his organisation, which seeks protection of recreational fishers' rights, is holding meetings at Kaikohe on August 12 and at Whangarei on August 13, with venues to be confirmed.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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