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Watch NZH Local Focus: LegaSea Hawke's Bay fears for local fish stocks

By Kaysha Brownlie

A big catch is something every fisherman hopes for.

But, LegaSea Hawke's Bay, a group dedicated to protecting recreational fishing, says it's something of a rarity.

Member, Jim Yeoman, says: "The fishing in Hawke's Bay is about the enjoyment of being on the water, catching something is a bonus, it never used to be like that."

Mr Yeoman says during a good season recreational fishermen could hook nearly 400 gurnard - now they're lucky to see two.

LegaSea Hawke's Bay's has recorded data from surveying thousands of anglers from each competition day over the last decade.

Brian Firman, who belongs to LegaSea Hawke's Bay, too, says the state of the fisheries is a "major concern".

Looking at a graph from the collated data he says it"zigzags on a general trend downward".

According to their results, in 2006 gurnard catch was 2.2 per person - now, it's about 1.3.

"Recreational catch is estimated between three and six per cent of the total catch that comes out, so even if recreational anglers halved their daily bag limit it would make no significant difference to the fish volumes," Mr Firman says.

That's why the group are calling for greater restrictions enforced on commercial fishing in the area.

Passionate recreational fisherman, Wayne Bicknell, says the group want trawling outside 50m only.

"We will keep going until we've got that."

The group wants the exclusion zone - so young fish have time to rejuvenate - given the practices of commercial fishers.

"Bulk harvesting, they basically catch what they can, everything they can keep, what they want, and get rid of the rest," Mr Bicknell says.

LegaSea Hawke's Bay acknowledges a willingness from some commercial fishers to work with them - but say they need more action from the Ministry for Primary Industries [MPI].

"The fish belong to the people of New Zealand and the people of New Zealand should know, and deserve to know, about the stock that are being pulled out of the water," Mr Yeoman says.

An MPI spokesperson says they are working with both recreational and commercial fishers to facilitate discussion around fisheries management.

They say science shows the wider fisheries management area is in "good shape" but acknowledges there is anecdotal evidence that suggests numbers may be down.

But Mr Yeoman's message hasn't changed.

"Go with the belief that you're coming home with nothing."

MPI says reports received over the summer demonstrate good recreational catch, but they will continue monitoring the situation - including recently imposed restrictions - and the trial of new trawl gear aimed at minimising fish waste.

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- NZ Herald

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