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Snapper fishery moving in a healthy direction

Friday 15 November 2019

Best fishing ever in the Gulf at the moment, Andy McKay tweeted last weekend.

A self-described conservationist, he told his 1474 followers “New Zealand fisheries consistently gets a bad rap but most indicators are heading in the right direction”.

He added: “It would be great to see more people acknowledging the good things that are happening” and pointed to the Ocean Optimism website.

That reference was to an international marine conservation movement that focuses on solutions rather than problems “with the aim of creating a new narrative of hope for our oceans”.

It is not hard to find evidence of healthy local fisheries.

NZ Fishing World magazine in its Nov 8 report said “we might be experiencing some of the best fishing ever in the gulf at the moment, with snapper hard on the chew and now good kingfish getting in on the action too”.

It continued: “At the moment you can expect the fishing just about anywhere from the lower Firth (of Thames) right up to Kawau and everywhere in between and expect to do well.”

Newshub reported last weekend one fisherman saying they had brought home 12 beautiful snapper.

“We didn’t even have to measure them, they were so big,” he said.

Coromandel mussel growers can also attest to the abundance of snapper, struggling with protecting spat from the predatory fish.

They welcome recreational anglers targeting their farms, with one operator describing it as “pest control”.

Snapper are the dominant finfish on the North Island’s upper east coast and recreational fishers are regularly catching their daily bag limit, particularly in the inner Hauraki Gulf where commercial trawling and seining is banned.

That recreational catch is substantial, nearly on a par with commercial.

Recreational fishers took an estimated 2.6 million fish in 2017-18, according to a Fisheries NZ survey.

That is equivalent to 3200 tonnes.

The Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) in the Snapper1 fishery, which extends from Bream Head in the north down to Mercury Bay in the south, is 4000 tonnes.

On the west coast of the North Island, where the TACC has not kept pace with a booming snapper population, the challenge for commercial fishers is to avoid them.

Fisheries scientists aboard the NIWA research vessel Kaharoa began a survey of young fish in Snapper1 this week, under a special trawling permit in the inner Gulf.

That will feed into a stock assessment and the likely snapper productivity over coming years.

A similar survey will be carried out in the Bay of Plenty in February.

A 2018 assessment for snapper along the north and west coasts of the South Island showed it had increased substantially in size and was at or above its management target, according to the latest Fisheries NZ stock status report.

The overall fishery was in good heart too, with 95 percent of assessed landings being fished sustainably.

“The 2018 evaluation indicates that by far the majority of New Zealand’s fisheries are performing well,” FNZ scientists reported.

The recreational fishing extremists who advocate banning commercial inshore fishery – never mind the cost to communities and all those who rely on fresh seafood – never seem to be able to catch any fish themselves. Despite the evidence to the contrary, the constant refrain is the Quota Management System is broken and the fish are all gone, hoovered up by the despicable commercial sector.

Spending more time on the water and less time ranting at the keyboard would be a good start to putting some fish on the table.

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