Snapper limit cuts show system failure

By Geoff Thomas

If quotas worked, we wouldn't have to be worrying about shrinking fish stocks.

Crayfish like these ones Steve Devine caught off the Taranaki coast are no longer seen on the east coast, where stocks are "shamefully" depleted.
Crayfish like these ones Steve Devine caught off the Taranaki coast are no longer seen on the east coast, where stocks are "shamefully" depleted.

Cuts to snapper limits come into force on Tuesday, with the increase in the minimum size from 27cm to 30cm. The new rules apply only to the Snapper 1 area, which runs from Cape Runaway to North Cape on the east coast, which is the main snapper fishery.

The west coast fishery remains unchanged with a bag limit of 10 fish a day, and a 27cm minimum length.

So somebody fishing on the Manukau Harbour can take home 10 smaller fish than someone fishing the Waitemata Harbour, where it will be seven larger fish.

Recreational angling organisations are unhappy with the system which has imposed five cuts to the limit since the quota management system was introduced in 1986.

That system has had 28 years to prove itself, and if it had been successful the discussion today would be about "What shall we do with all the fish?", rather than "We have to rebuild stocks."

The best system for the health of the fishery would be to require anglers to take home the first nine - or whatever the limit bag is - snapper they catch, irrespective of size. That way only the specific number of fish would be caught and killed. But this would never work in practice because people would do what some commercial fishermen are often accused of, high-grading - discarding fish that have been caught in favour of fish of a higher value, or better size. So small fish would still be killed.

Another solution would be to require people to take home the first seven (the new bag) snapper caught which are over the legal size limit, not throw them back hoping for a larger one. But, again, this would be impossible to enforce.

Now another fight is looming between recreational fishing interests and the Government; this time over a review of crayfish and scallop management.

The recreational lobby group Legasea says the Ministry of Primary Industries allowed only 18 working days for submissions to be lodged, which was insulting, and it was "the same old story - the ongoing symptoms of a failing quota management system".

"The commercial sector currently catches more than 13 times more crays than the public," Legasea says. "With over two million pot lifts made a year it's not surprising. Meanwhile, recreational catch has plummeted.

"Commercial and recreational catch rates in the greater Auckland and Bay of Plenty (Cray Area 2) are the worst in the country because of shamefully low stock levels.

"The plan being considered will fail to restore the Cray 2 stock - too little, too late."

Freshwater

The lack of rain continues to be a major factor influencing trout fishing. Rivers and streams in the Rotorua and Taupo districts are low and clear, making fly fishing hard. But the low lake levels are a bonus, with strong rips where streams run into the lakes and fishing over the drop-offs is good.

Tip of the week
To deter unwanted small fish hooking themselves you can use large hooks such as size 7/0, and fresh bait such as cut kahawai.

Bite times
Bite times are 11:50am tomorrow, and 12:15am and 12:40 pm on Sunday. These are based on the phase and position of the moon, not tides, and apply to the whole country.

- NZ Herald

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