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Reducing snapper would not tackle the problem

I think the cart has come before the horse in the proposal of the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) recreational fishers’ snapper reduction proposal; because it has not attempted to take into account commercial dumping of snapper in SNA1 (an area from the tip of East Northland, down to the Bay of Plenty).

Apparently, there is no system of recording as to how many SNA1 snapper are not landed because of the current quota management structure. It seems that the snapper caught by commercial people fishers are over their quota limit; but there is an associated cost.

I am told that commercial fishers have to pay $22 a kilogram. This landing figure can amount to thousands of dollars and therefore it seems to be easier to send the extra snapper over the side and bring in the fish that can be accounted for legally.

The other factor to be considered is the wastage and slaying of juvenile snapper by the fishing methods of trawling and Danish seining.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy should study the current wastage of snapper by commercial methods before reducing recreational bag limits.

Historic perspective

It’s interesting that the same conversation regarding the damage that trawlers do took place in 1901, when steam trawlers were working in the Hauraki Gulf. The recreational fishers of that era said that the snapper were being depleted by these trawlers. The trawlers were restricted to outside a line, north of Waiheke Island to protect the juvenile snapper nurseries.

In the late 1960s, in SNA1 area, commercial fishing went viral, as they say today, that anyone could apply for a fishing license to long-line, net, Danish seine or trawl, and just get on with it!

I know many people who were recreationally fishing during the 1970s and early 1980s saying that the SNA1 snapper fishery was in a worse state than now. I believe that the Hauraki Gulf is healthy, although the dumping of 1080 poison baits on the Hauraki Gulf Islands a few years ago did not help the situation.

Rising hobby

The Government introduced the Quota Management System in 1986 to tackle the challenge of depleting fish. Interestingly, fisheries officials did not accuse recreational fishers because they were aware that commercial overfishing was responsible for depletion of fish.

Recreational fishing did not become an industry in its own right until 1986. Today, there are thousands of people who like recreational fishing and according to a survey one in three persons go fishing seven days a year, generating more than $1 billion.

The recreational fishing industry has created many jobs, boosting the travel trade, boat building, and retailing, to mention a few.

People fishing in the SNA1 area just want a meal of snapper. Considering the working week, weather conditions, seasons and other factors, the number of days available for recreational fishing is limited. It is therefore unfair to blame such fishers for the collapse of SNA 1.

Commercial damage

It was not recreational fishers who decimated the orange rough fishery and caused the decline of the tuna and tooth-fish fishery.

We have a right to catch a snapper to feed our family, and hence the recreational snapper catch bag should not have been have been brought under the proposal.

The Government should study the commercially associated dumping and inform the public of the damage caused to juvenile snapper in SNA1 areas.

Recreational fishing is not about how much a fish costs, but about being able to go fishing, enjoy a day on the water and relax with a few friends.

According to some, catching a fish is a bonus.

That is what defines us as Kiwis!

Commercial fishers would like us to purchase fish from the Supermarket, and not go out fishing!

The Government must sort out commercial wastage first, rather than going after recreational fishers.

Bill Hohepa is an expert fisherman based in Auckland. He writes regularly on matters relating to fishing in the media and on his blog. He is also the Owner of Bill Hohepa Enterprises Limited and Recreational Facilities and Services Specialist. The above is a highly edited version of an article sent by him to highlight the concerns of people.

The Issue in brief

The Ministry of Primary Industries released a Discussion Paper on July 12, 2013 in which it proposed to reduce the number of snapper (SNA 1), as a part of several changes to the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

The proposal has angered recreational anglers, since it would effectively reduce the daily catch from nine snapper to three.

The options vary from keeping the total commercial, recreational and customary catch at 7550 tonnes (combined) per year, with new controls on the recreational catch, adjusting the total catch at plus or minus 500 tonnes.

The Ministry claims that the current recreational catch averages about 3365 tonnes annually, above the original allowance of 2550 tonnes set in 1997.

During a conversation, Prime Minister John Key revealed that more than 30,000 submissions were received from the public. While the date for submissions ended on August 31, 2013, the Minister of Primary Industries would announce his decision on October 1, 2013.

Photo Caption:

Recreational fishers already face restrictions

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