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Ex-minister hits out at proposals

By Mike Barrington

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Jesus Christ was the only person who could make a meal out of three fish, former Labour Minister of Maori Affairs and Associate Minister of Fisheries Dover Samuels said yesterday.

Mr Samuels, a small-scale commercial fisherman at Matauri Bay for 30 years, said proposals which could cut the daily snapper bag limit from nine to three for recreational fishers were the "thin edge of wedge" for increasing the commercial catch at the expense of people catching food for family.

By contrast, Whangarei MP and former National Minister of Fisheries Phil Heatley was predictably more sympathetic toward the Government review of the snapper fishery between Cape Reinga and East Cape.

He said yesterday the review was about making a good fishery healthier and options open to Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy included increasing the recreational catch.

Mr Heatley said it was essential for fishers to make submissions before August 23 so the minister could assess public concerns over the proposals.

Mr Samuels intended going to the LegaSea meeting in Kaikohe yesterday and Mr Heatley said he would be at the meeting in Toll Stadium at Whangarei at 7pm tonight.

Mr Samuels said he had attended three hui over the weekend where people were asking: "Who would put a boat in the water to catch three fish?"

Many people in Northland coastal communities were suffering financially and they relied on fishing to feed their families.

"Recreational fishers need to stamp on these plans right now or they will keep coming back," Mr Samuels said, describing how he had shown commercial fishing lobbyists the door to his parliamentary office when he was Associate Minister of Fisheries in 1999-2000.

He predicted catch limits for trevally and other fish would be the next to be reduced if the snapper bag limit was cut.

Mr Heatley said LegaSea raising the possibility of the bag limit being reduced from nine to three snapper was a case of "cherry-picking the worst-case scenario.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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