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New recreational management system needed - report

Friday 8 December 2017

Management of recreational fisheries needs to change, a research group has found.

The current level of access to fisheries that so many New Zealanders value cannot be taken for granted, according to The Future Catch report, the latest in a series written by Dr Randall Bess.

It proposes a Western Australia-style management system where recreational, commercial and customary sectors collaborate, licence fees fund a healthier resource and catch data is recorded.

The report was funded by The New Zealand Initiative, an independent think tank supported by major businesses and the late Sir Douglas Myers in particular.

Bess, a former fisherman in Alaska, US-based Environmental Defence Fund consultant and Ministry for Primary Industries official, is a research fellow on fisheries management policy at the Initiative.

The report was launched on Monday night at a panel discussion that included Bess, Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, Te Ohu Kaimoana deputy chair Sir Mark Solomon and New Zealand Sport Fishing Council vice-president Bob Gutsell.

But in arguing for a peak body to represent the recreational sector, Bess clearly did not favour the recreational lobby group LegaSea, accusing it in the report of deliberate misrepresentation, outrageous assertions, simplistic and biased responses, a typically negative campaign and a lack of commitment to constructive engagement.

However, Gutsell blew the opportunity to step into that space by announcing he did not support any of the recommendations in the report.

Not much chance of compromise there either.

Asked whether he supported measuring the recreational catch, Nash said he did.

Gutsell claimed that already occurred, when quite clearly it does not.

“We need to think about how we can get accurate information about the recreational take through mechanisms like the national panel survey,” Nash said. “In Snapper1 recreational fishers take as much as 46 percent of the catch. If we do not have accurate information about such a large proportion of the catch then we cannot make properly informed decisions.

“I fully believe we can have a thriving commercial fishing industry alongside customary and recreational sectors that can fish in abundant shared fisheries.”

We all want sustainable fisheries for current and future generations to enjoy and we all have a role to play in making that happen, he said.

If changes are not made to the management of recreational fisheries, New Zealanders can expect increasingly stringent constraints on their access to fisheries resources, the report warned.

“And, even then, we risk the type of catastrophic depletion that has too often characterised the recreational fisheries in other coastal nations.

“Indeed, this level of depletion has already occurred in the blue cod fisheries in the Marlborough Sounds, the finfish fishery in Hawke's Bay and the rock lobster fishery along the northeast coast of the North Island.”

The report argues the sharp discrepancy between the management of recreational and commercial fisheries has been driven by funding differences.

“The management of commercial fisheries is largely funded on a cost recovery basis by quota holders, while recreational fishers have generally been unwilling to contribute towards managing recreational fisheries.”

One means of greater investment in the recreational sector was suggested allocation of the petrol excise duty paid on boat fuel, a move unlikely to be embraced by Treasury.

Switching allocations between the sectors, with compensation for quota holders affected, was also proposed.

While there will be continuing debate about how the resource should be allocated, Sir Mark summed it up:

“The first right belongs to the ocean.”

Questioned in Parliament on Tuesday by opposition fisheries spokesman Gerry Brownlee, Minister Nash said he had referred The Future Catch report to his officials to work through.

Nothing would be implemented before Christmas but he said he did not support licensing of recreational marine fishers or recording and reporting of catches.

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