More than 50,000 submissions on proposals to cut snapper bag limits.

The commercial fishing industry has accused recreational fishers of overfishing and depleting snapper stocks in the country's most popular fishery and has urged the Fisheries Minister to take control and enforce the recreational limits.

The Ministry for Primary Industries had received more than 50,000 submissions on proposals to cut snapper bag limits in the Snapper 1 fishery by the consultation deadline yesterday.

A large number of the submissions were generated through a campaign by recreational fishing lobby group Legasea.

The ministry said 1,500 submissions had been individually submitted. But the Legasea submissions could not be discounted because they could be altered or personalised.


Commercial fisheries have taken a lot of the flak in the debate so far. MPs have pointed out the industry's high levels of wastage and recreational fishers have questioned why most of the ministry's proposals did not affect the commercial take.

Seafood New Zealand, which represented the commercial fleet, shot back at recreational fishers in its submission. It said that the total allowable catch for commercial fishers had remained at 4500 tonnes since 1997 while the recreational catch was estimated to have grown more than 75 per cent over that period.

Recreational fishers were estimated to have exceeded their allowance of 2,600 tonnes by 52 per cent in 2011-12.

Seafood NZ said: "The minister is obliged to manage the recreational sector to its allowance. It is not acceptable that he ... set an allowance and then fails to adjust the terms and conditions such as bag limits ... to limit the catch."

The lobby group added: "[Snapper 1] has reached the point where the minister needs to take active control of the recreational fishery. The growth rate in the recreational take far exceeds the capacity of the fish-stock to meet the demands of the recreational significant without imposing undue impacts on other sectors and in particular on the commercial sector."

A collective of commercial fishers took out full-page advertisements in newspapers to emphasise that the commercial fish take had dropped by 21 per cent since 1986, while recreational take had jumped by 149 per cent.

This group supported Option 2, which increased the total allowable catch by 500 tonnes to be shared proportionally between recreational and commercial fisheries.

Mr Guy hinted this week that the proposal to cut bag limits from nine to three would not be chosen.

Proposed rule changes

Option 1: Reduces the recreational catch from an estimated 3365 tonnes to 2550
and leaves the commercial catch at 4500 tonnes.

Option 2: Reduces the recreational catch to 2730 tonnes and increases the
commercial quota to 4830 tonnes.

Option 3: Reduces the recreational catch to 2370 tonnes and reduces the commercial quota to 4180 tonnes.

All three options involve limiting the recreational catch by reducing the daily bag
limit, increasing the minimum size, or both. Proposed changes range from leaving the minimum size at 27cm while reducing the bag limit to three, to increasing the minimum size to 36cm while leaving the bag limit at nine.