Katherine Short: Fishing parks decision disappointing

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Photo / Michael Craig
Photo / Michael Craig

The two proposed recreational marine parks will do little for sustainability of the fish species concerned, blue cod and snapper, in the absence of strict controls on the numbers of recreational fishers and the amount of fish they take within the parks.

The proposal is vague on how the reporting and monitoring of the parks will occur. This will not ensure all who fish will be responsible.

Furthermore, any compensation for fishing effort needs to ensure that the compensated quota volume, is taken off the current total allowable commercial catch. This ensures that effort is not concentrated in the remaining areas outside the proposed fishing parks.

Control on recreational fishers has been a political hot potato for years yet nothing in the proposal describes about how the ministers intend to actually make our coastal fisheries truly healthy.

Anyone doing their research would know that the comparative catch over the years in the Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod fishery is approximately 120mt recreational and 12mt commercial.

In the Sounds, this is not a commercial problem and potentially not a recreational one either there.

Many have argued for years that the real issue in the Sounds is environmental change with the increasing impact from terrestrial activity including farming, forestry and roading.

In the Hauraki Gulf, there is generally a poor understanding of the current, potential or even latent potential that exists within the recreational sector. Before people start screaming, how about we do the maths?

In Fisheries Management Area 1 (FMA1, East Cape to North Cape) there are an estimated 250,000 recreational fishers (2011-12 MPI survey). Let us assume that 150,000 of those are concentrated in the Hauraki Gulf.

In the case of snapper, if each took one bag limit (7 fish) a year (allowing for those that get more than one limit and those that don't quite make it and at an average length of 30 cm and average weight of 575gms), this would equal 4.02kg per person.

Multiply that by 150,000 equals 603,000kg or 603mt per annum which would be taken by recreational fishers under this simple scenario alone.

Amazingly, the law actually allows fishers to go fishing 365 days a year taking that bag limit every day. While of course the reality is less, in multiplying those numbers it becomes really scary that there simply wouldn't be enough fish in the sea. It's worth noting that the commercial take for the whole of FMA1 is 4500t.

The real point is it's the not knowing from one year to the next and relying on five yearly MPI estimates that are fundamentally flawed and that this proposal does not yet address.

We all support and enjoy recreational fishing and believe there are four million other New Zealanders that don't go fishing who want to see better responsibility from recreational fishers including reporting catch, constraining effort and fishing responsibly.

We recently heard anecdotal reports of piano wire being used to strip all life from rocks in on the Kaikoura Coast. This is enormously concerning.

As environmentalists who are passionate about New Zealand's beautiful natural bounty, we also want to see more responsibility from government to make the tough decisions in a timely manner that ensures all fisheries and fishing areas are sustainable including the health of the marine environment and ecosystem needs.

We believe that one of the most pervasive threats to all coastal fisheries is the extremely high rate of sedimentation, the mud that is pouring off the landscape.

Hopefully at least the creation of these parks may shift the debate from who should get what, to what is holding back the fisheries to be more abundant.

The risks from sediment, warming water and in some places, the water becoming more acidic are increasing and it's time to work together to address these issues, not fight over the remaining fish.

Katherine Short is a partner of Terra Moana Ltd, based in Wellington, who are primary industry sustainability advisers on natural resource management issues, specialising in New Zealand and international fisheries management.

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