Blue moki is a popular table fish taken by shorebased anglers, set netters and spear fishers around the South Island and lower North Island. An estimated 36,000 blue moki were taken in 1999 by recreational anglers fishing off the east coast of the South Island (Area 3). That’s around 53 tonnes. Fishers caught another 130 tonnes off the west coast and around the North Island, in Area 1.
Clearly blue moki is a highly valued recreational fishery, so when the Ministry for Primary Industries recently suggested they increase the quota for commercial fishers in Area 3 we said ‘no way’.
Set netting has been banned within four nautical miles of the southeastern coast since 2008. Recreational catch has plummeted.
Since 2010 commercial fishers have exceeded their quota limits by 25%, while local families are now denied reasonable access to a staple food. We are concerned that MPI is incentivising overcatch, by rewarding commercial fishers who exceed their limits.
Blue moki is not the first; there have been previous decisions, including snapper and kingfish, where the Minister has raised quota limits in response to excessive commercial harvest.
Blue moki are long-lived and vulnerable to overfishing. Stock status is unknown so it is risky to start issuing quota based on commercial overcatch, especially when there is little prospect of any new information being made available, and because the North and South Island fisheries are inseparably linked.
Each autumn blue moki migrate from the South Island to the east coast of the North Island. Catch in one area will affect the other. There has been no attempt to assess the likely effects of any catch increases. MPI propose a new recreational allowance of five or 10 tonnes. A reasonable allowance would be around 50 tonnes.
LegaSea objects to MPI confiscating the recreational allowance and making it available to quota holders. Commercial fishers have already proven they cannot stick to their lawful catch limits.
Our recommendations include:
That no change to blue moki 3 catch limits be made at this time as there is no measure of abundance.
Prior to any catch limit increase the Ministry for Primary Industries must urgently undertake at-sea catch research to establish a more reliable estimate of blue moki 3 mortality and catch at age.
We await Nathan Guy’s Ministerial decision with interest.