New Zealand's largest iwi, Ngapuhi, has thrown its weight behind a campaign to protect the snapper bag limit of recreational anglers, which is under threat of possible cut from nine fish a day to three.
Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi chairman Sonny Tau described the proposed bag limit cut as an "insult".
"What the Minister [for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy] is promoting on the extreme where he reduces the recreational bag from nine snapper to three is an insult," Mr Tau said.
"People won't go fishing for three snapper. It's ludicrous to think that someone will put petrol in their boat or walk miles around rocks to go fishing and only be allowed to take home three snapper. You won't even feed a family with that. Maori go fishing and come back and feed a lot of people, they drop a bit here and a bit there."
Ngapuhi leaders this week passed a resolution to support the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council's policy, which advocates rebuilding snapper stocks in the region that stretches from the Bay of Plenty to Northland by freezing the total allowable commercial catch and encouraging more sustainable fishing methods by the commercial and recreational sectors.
The council's advocacy arm, Legasea, is holding meetings around the upper North Island to solidify opposition to ministry proposals to rebuild snapper stocks by reducing the daily bag limit of recreational fishermen, or increasing the minimum size limit from 27cm.
Ngapuhi has opposed changes many believe are designed to further the interests of the commercial fishing sector despite having significant commercial interests of its own.
Ngapuhi Fishing returns around $1.6 million a year to the iwi through a joint venture called Northland Deepwater JV, which operates two trawlers. However, the interests of iwi recreational anglers came first, Mr Tau said: "99.99 per cent of the time that Maori go fishing they are categorised as recreational fishers. The commercial side of us is one issue, the recreational and customary another. The first cab off the rank is that we have to be able to feed our children.
"We believe that by addressing the side of commercial wastage - and we see tonnes and tonnes being wasted - with better methods of catch to avoid smaller fish mortality then we are on the pathway to a more sustainable fishery. To even consider reducing the recreational bag and then increase the commercial catch is something that doesn't sit well with Ngapuhi."
The iwi was leading the push towards sustainable commercial fishing by investing in research into nets that would reduce the number of small fish being killed, he said.
Legasea spokesman Scott Macindoe described the formal alignment of interests between the iwi and the recreational fishing sector as a "significant milestone".
"The unification is confirmation of a trusting relationship. We don't get these every day."
The ministry's attempt to allocate the recreational sector a quota was "an obnoxious agenda of proportionality", Mr Macindoe said. "It's a corporate, quota-owner, greedy grab."
Mr Tau expected other iwi would also oppose bag limit cuts.
"If you ask any of their leaders, their first priority is that our children are able to be fed."
Mr Guy has said that the ministry's proposals are simply part of a consultation process.
"There is no predetermined outcome and we want to hear the views of the public before making any decision."