Snapper decision falls short. LegaSea. 18 Sep 2013

September 18, 2013

Media release

Recreational fishing advocacy group LegaSea, say recreational fishers are rightfully angry that their daily bag limits have been cut from nine to seven and the minimum legal size has been increased, from 27 to 30cm, when there is no change to commercial catch limits.

Most of the snapper quota in Area 1 is held by corporate fishing entities that can now maintain their interests in the biggest inshore fishery in the country, while public fishers are hit with a 22% decrease in individual daily bag limits.

Mandy Kupenga, national programme leader for LegaSea says, “It’s a real shame that the positive aspects of the Minister’s decision are overshadowed by senseless changes to public catch limits. While the recreational allowance was adjusted up to reflect our needs, those benefits are taken away in the same breath with a decrease to our bag limits.”

“The conservation impact of the changes to recreational fishers will do almost nothing to rebuild the fishery, and it’s simply not balanced and fair that the people of New Zealand have food taken off the table while commercial quota remains unchanged – including the continuation of the smaller 25cm size limit for commercial fishers.”

Measures outlined in the Minister’s decision yesterday to address commercial waste were viewed positively by LegaSea, but they say a watchful eye is still necessary, especially since significant funding for these initiatives comes from taxpayer dollars. “It’s taken more than 30 years to get recognition of this issue and a plan to address this waste. If Mr Guy’s proposed initiatives are implemented thoroughly it will make a significant impact on rebuilding the fish stocks” says Ms Kupenga.

On the other side of the fence, the reaction from Sanford CEO Eric Barratt has been negative. He said in a statement released yesterday “It is unfair to penalise commercial fishers and sends a poor message to the commercial sector – look after the fishery but ultimately you will lose it. That drives a deep wedge into the heart of the conservation ethic out on the water.”

With statements like this outraging the public further it’s little wonder the credibility of Sanford is at an all time low. The view that addressing commercial waste is “penalising commercial fishers” demonstrates the self-proclaimed sense of entitlement Sanford has in relation to fish stocks, and is also an insight as to how the care and protection of this public resource is viewed by the commercial sector.

The impact of an increased size limit will be great for many Kiwi fishers. Recent research shows that around 40% of people who fish in the Snapper 1 area fish from the beach or rocks. Those in touch with land-based fishing know that on average it’s much harder to bring in a snapper over 30cm when close into shore, compared to boat fishing. Many of these people rely on what they catch to feed their families.

Further research also showed that 73% of National voters wanted to see commercial quota reduced as a conservation measure taken to rebuild the Snapper 1 fishery.

Already, social media sites have been inundated with comments from upset fishers who vow to change their vote away from the current government in the next election.

Due to overwhelming public outrage Nathan Guy has shown glimpses of strength, pushing back on poor advice from his Ministry. However, the end result still shows favour to protecting commercial quota, and this is the gap that must be closed, preferably before the election next year.

LegaSea will continue working with the people of New Zealand to communicate the implications of this decision and seek feedback so that an appropriate course of action can be taken.