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A proposal for recreational-only fishing parks could affect many fishing families such as Craig Aston's, stripping millions out of the local economy.

The true cost of recreational fishing parks

Thursday 20 October 2016

NOTE: The NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen has also produced a 15-minute video that showcases the impact these closures will have on fishermen’s livelihoods, local economies, tourism, hospitality businesses and everyday New Zealanders who, if they can’t go fishing, will no longer be able to eat locally-caught fish. Take a look at this video and hear these hard working New Zealanders’ stories first hand.

Commercial fishing in the Marlborough Sounds is not immediately obvious to visitors to this aquatic playground at the top of the South Island.

 It’s not surprising as its network of secluded bays, islands and coves covers a vast tract of marine waterways 42 kilometres long and with 380 kilometres of shoreline. Pelorus Sound (Te Hoiere) is the largest, followed by Queen Charlotte Sound (Totaranui).

 But for generations, families have made their living in the Sounds’ sheltered waterways.

Around 20 fishing families across the top of the south will be affected, stripping millions out of the local economy. Figures obtained from the Marlborough District Council show that fishing contributed $3.68 million to the Marlborough region in 2015.

Graham and Nadine Taylor run their fishing business out of Picton and Port Underwood at the north-east end of the Sounds. Graham is a fourth generation commercial fisherman. Their teenage son Nicholas is keen to become a fifth generation Taylor working for the family fishing business, but if the proposal goes ahead he may need to consider other options.

Recreational fishing parks will not improve recreational fishing or provide an “enhanced” fishing experience as promised by Government, they say.

Graham and Nadine Taylor run their fishing business out of Picton and Port Underwood

 They support sustainable fishing but through the Fisheries Act and its Quota Management System.

“Protecting marine biodiversity and a healthy marine eco-system is critical to inter-generational sustainability.”

But, they say the proposal for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that includes recreational fishing parks is not sufficiently well planned or thought through to enable it to deliver meaningful protection of New Zealand’s marine biodiversity.

 They point to the Marlborough Marine Futures Forum as a model for community-based, integrated management planning. Graham represents the commercial rock lobster sector on the forum.

 Their view is echoed by the Marlborough District Council which says in its submission on the proposal that “whilst council supports the fishing park, it recommends that the community be given an opportunity to develop its own solutions, with the support of central government and council.”

“Council has been surprised by the MPA proposals and would prefer that central government agencies engage with it at a governance level for future initiatives that significantly affect its statutory functions in the wider community.”

 The Taylors are concerned about the impact on the local community which relies on commercial fishing operators to supply fish retailers with fresh locally caught fish.

“While it’s often promoted that one million New Zealanders go fishing that, leaves three million New Zealanders who rely on someone else to catch and provide their fresh fish”.

 The proposal will also impact on local tourism. Tourists to Picton want to eat locally caught fish when they visit, Nadine says.

 The proposal isn’t based on science, they say, but is about appealing to voters.

“Marlborough and our Marlborough Sounds are being used as the sacrificial province to appease a Government election promise to recreational fishers many of whom live outside our province without consideration to the wider impact on the Marlborough community – commercial fishers, local recreational fishers and non-fishers.”

 The Heberley and Perano families are the elder statesmen of New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry. They have fished the waters for generations and know the importance of preserving fish stocks for future generations.

Joe Heberley, the fourth generation Heberley to live and fish in the Sounds and Cook Strait says the proposal could force the family out of the fishing business.

 The Heberleys catch one tonne of butterfish, four tonnes of school shark, two tonnes of hapuku and one tonne of rock lobster from within the park’s proposed boundary.

Joe Heberley questions the motive to “improve the recreational fishing experience” to provide an abundance of fish.

 “That is a fisheries management issue and should be addressed within the Fisheries Act.

 “Proper fisheries management is a priority for the Marlborough Sounds.

 In our view this can only be achieved with an integrated plan that includes all stakeholders.

“There is no place for a recreational fishing park that gives absolute priority to just one sector. The way forward is to continue to work towards a shared and managed sustainable fishery. A well-managed fishery provides abundance which equates to success for all sectors.”

 The Peranos settled in the Marlborough Sounds 141 years ago to hunt whales from Tory Channel and have been in the fishing business ever since.

“Like all fishermen I view the longterm sustainability of the fishery as one of the most important issues facing our industry. I view myself as a custodian of the fishery,” Craig Perano says.

 Over the past few years his business Maris Fishing has invested heavily in moving away from lower value gilled and gutted cod towards high value live fish to supply national Chinese resturants with the goal of exporting around 10 tonne a year to China for the restaurant trade.

His first boat cost $70,000, and the second recently arrived from Australia cost $300,000 to purchase, fit with live holding tanks and get into survey. He has also spent an additional $25,000 on modified fishing pots to ensure his live catch is landed in prime condition.

 The proposal to create a fishing park will see him losing substantial revenue from which he pays wages, maintains equipment, leases quota and supports his family.

“The closure of the Sounds may not only be lethal to Maris Fishing Ltd, but will have a significant negative impact on the seafood industry as a whole.

 “I see massive growth potential within the live seafood sector as these high priced ‘value added’ products represent one of the only ways to increase the value from within our sustainably harvested industry.”

His Licensed Fish Receiver has also invested in the move to live export by building a purpose built facility in Picton.

 Further west at French Pass, two other families whose history of fishing in the Sounds dates back generations are concerned they may be the last generation to fish there.

Craig Aston, a fourth generation fisherman has fished on the eastern side of d’Urville Island for 30 years. He pots for blue cod and nets for butterfish.

Craig Aston checks his cod pots

The Astons’ catch goes direct to the Sydney Fish Market through the Nelson seafood company, Finestkind. Actor Russell Crowe is reputedly a big fan of their fish.

Lindsay Elkington’s family has fished around d’Urville for six generations.

 Elkington catches blue cod by hand line the way his Dad taught him, landing 18 tonnes a year.

 He left the island to go to secondary school and after a career in deep water commercial fishing returned home to fish the Sounds and run a homestay business.

Both the Astons and Elkingtons run a water taxi service across from French Pass to d’Urville. Without fishing as their mainstay that service will no longer be available.

The Elkingtons say they would need to “pack up their bags, lock up the house and leave the island to look for work elsewhere, just when tourism to the island is taking off”.

The Port Nelson Fishermen’s Association has several members who fish in the proposed commercial fishing closure area and says there is no credible justification for the proposal.

 “All finfish species form part of the Quota Management System and need to be managed as such. Fishing success is related to stock abundance, not to the spatial separation of commercial and recreational participants,” the association said.

“Without reliable information from the recreational sector, the big picture is incomplete and skewed.”

 Donna Wells of Finestkind agrees.

 Donna Wells of Finestkind Ltd says the closure would have a significant impact on her business.

“Serious investigation and analysis needs to be made a top priority to obtain some reliable and factual data from the recreational fishing sector in this fisheries management area. The combined efforts of recreational and commercial fishers must be made known,” she says.

 The closure would have a significant impact on her business. Wells has built a strong market for her products at the Sydney Fish Market.

“In reality, the cessation of access to the product caught in this area would mean the loss of a substantial part of my export business and, as a small, independent operator, could mean the end of my export business overall.”

All of the fishing families we spoke to say there is no science supporting the proposal to close the Sounds to commercial fishing. They all say the QMS has been an effective tool for managing fish stocks and question the lack of science supporting the proposal.

 “There’s no science behind this, there’s no evidence either way of its impacts, good or bad,” says Elkington.

NOTE: The NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen has also produced a 15-minute video that showcases the impact these closures will have on fishermen’s livelihoods, local economies, tourism, hospitality businesses and everyday New Zealanders who, if they can’t go fishing, will no longer be able to eat locally-caught fish. Take a look at this video and hear these hard working New Zealanders’ stories first hand.

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