Comment: There are excellent examples of co-operation between the commercial and recreational sectors of New Zealand's fishing industry, writes National's spokesman for Fisheries Ian McKelvie.

I recently wrote of the challenges facing our fishing industry both commercial and recreational, and of the need for tolerance and more investment in understanding our fish resources to ensure there is plenty for everyone.

But recently there has been couple of serious issues confronting the industry, and it is important that these are addressed for the future of fishing.

The large volume of dead blue mackerel floating around the Hauraki Gulf some weeks ago leads one to question how this could happen, and how we allow this type of incident to occur.

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Whatever the explanation for these dead fish, and MPI believe they know, people in the area have a right to know immediately what caused this incident, and deserve assurance that it is safe for both recreational and commercial fishers to continue fishing there.

I believe incidents like this continue to undermine the public's confidence in the management of the fishing industry in New Zealand and create further pressure and anxiety for our many hundreds of law-abiding and hardworking commercial fishing families in coastal towns and cities around our country.

To continue to build confidence in our fishery we must ensure that these incidents are reported immediately and measures are put in place to manage and eliminate them in the future.

To do this we need to ensure our fishermen have access to the latest and best monitoring equipment available.

This will have a tangible effect on fishers' abilities to mitigate issues like this, and protect vulnerable species.

National's spokesman for Fisheries Ian McKelvie. Photo / Bevan Conley
National's spokesman for Fisheries Ian McKelvie. Photo / Bevan Conley

Initiatives like this cost money, but they are necessary to ensure a future for the industry, and to restore public confidence.

Let's act quickly to ensure we all have confidence in the methods being used to monitor the industry.

Also concerning is the recent Motiti Island decision reached in the Environment Court allowing the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to effectively create marine reserves (therefore banning all forms of fishing) wherever they see fit.

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This has the potential to cause havoc in an ad hoc manner for our recreational fishing sector, as more and more areas are ruled out of bounds to the average family wanting to catch a fish for dinner.

This again points to the inadequacy of our current regulatory system and its ability to manage the seabed and fishery for the good of all New Zealanders in a manner that is effective and consistent.

There are excellent examples of co-operation between the commercial and recreational sectors.

One most recently in the news is the ongoing agreement between the Napier Fishermen's Association and Legasea Hawke's Bay, supported by Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, to close a large area of Hawke's Bay for the months of December, January and February.

This type of initiative could be organised around many parts of New Zealand's coastline during the summer making for much better inter-sector relationships.

It is important that we work to ensure our fishing industry is moving forward in a sustainable manner.

We don't want to lose the privilege of our great seafood, but we must also ensure these sorts of issues remain at a minimum.