Rules for daily limits on recreationally caught finfish will change to include species that previously had no limit, Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker announced today.
The move follows an incident that was caught on camera in Tairua last June when thousands of pink maomao were hauled in by fishermen.
There are more than 1000 finfish species found in New Zealand waters, and of those only 43 species have been subject to a daily recreational fishing limit leaving the rest - including pink maomao - open to overfishing.
"I instructed my officials to review the daily bag limits for recreationally caught finfish following reports of people taking hundreds of pink maomao on one day last year," David Parker said.
"Some of these species outside of bag limits weren't previously targeted by recreational fishers. But there has been a change in what people now catch and eat and the rules need to be updated to reflect this."
The changes put all finfish species into the combined daily bag limit for finfish. Finfish species with individual bag limits will also be included in the daily total.
"This puts an end to excessive take which could affect the sustainability of a species and also makes the rules more consistent across the country and easier to follow."
Tairua-based documentary maker Mike Bhana filmed a group of fishermen returning from nearby coastal fisheries with what he says were 1500-2000 pink maomao fish. The story was taken up by the Hauraki-Coromandel Post and published along with Bhana's video on the NZ Herald that evening.
"These guys have six binloads, with 1000 fish easy," Bhana said. One boat owner responded when approached: "How else do I pay for my motor?"
By the next morning, locals had blocked entrances to both wharves and were told the vehicle and trailer would not be in the same condition when they returned.
Public consultation on the changes ran from 6 October to 18 November 2021 and Fisheries New Zealand received 1,467 submissions from across a wide range of interests.
"This is an example of what a small community like Tairua, when they see something that isn't right and stand up and say 'we want some change', can achieve when the Government is listening," says Bhana.
"If we do, things can change. If we sit on our **ses and do nothing, we get the status quo."
He said he believed more research was needed to understand red fish species including pigfish, grandaddy hāpuku and pink maomao which were reef species that appeared to be more targeted in recent years.
"Another thing we're very aware of is that recreational fishers have constantly taken reductions in bag limits over the last 10 years when there's been very little reduction on the commercial side of things."
Ngati Hei kaumatua Joe Davis, who described the Tairua event as a "shocking" abuse of a legislative loophole, said communities had worked together for change.
"The people have been good kaitiaki and it's another collaborative approach by Tangata Whenua Ngati Hei and the locals down in Tairua.
"This is great news for pink maomao, [the] people of Tairua will be happy, they're a feisty lot down there and good on them. I'm more than pleased."
Specified baitfish and freshwater eels are not included in the Minister's changes, and have their own separate limits additional to the combined daily bag limit.
An example of a species with an individual daily limit is kingfish, which has a daily limit of three per angler. These individual limits will be retained but are now included within the combined daily bag limit.
Bhana said allowing an angler per day a limit of three kingfish - which average 10kg each in recreational catches but can be more than 30kg - was still totally excessive.
"If we don't reduce what we take including recreational and commercial [catch] there's not going to be any left for us tomorrow."
For example, a fisher in the Auckland/Kermadec, Central or Challenger areas can take three kingfish and up to 17 other finfish to make up their daily limit of 20.
Southern bluefin tuna, which has a daily limit of one per person per day, will now be included in the amateur regulations.
Previously, anyone taking excess southern bluefin tuna was issued with a warning or faced prosecution, but now Fisheries officers will be able to issue infringement notices.
Changes to the recreational daily bag limits take effect on 5 May 2022.
Updates and information about these changes, including the specified baitfish species, can be found on MPI's website at: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/recfishing-consultation.