Licensing a smokescreen for real agenda

August 1, 2017

The New Zealand Initiative, a consultancy that is paid to produce reports of a right wing nature, has produced a report that says recreational fishers need to be licensed because of a massive problem in the fishing sector.

There is a massive problem in the fishing sector – recreational fishers are not it.

The report’s logic goes like this:
1: People like to go fishing.
2: People like to live in New Zealand.
3: Lots of people will go fishing in the future so let’s licence it before it gets Out of Hand.

That’s pretty much the extent of the report’s findings, but it uses much more flowery language.

This is the same tired, old rhetoric we’ve heard before and when you look at who’s paid for the report, it becomes clear what its purpose is.

The Future Catch report is funded by the US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an organisation that is set up to look like a grass-roots organisation but is in fact funded by the people who run industrial-scale fishing in the United States.

But the licencing thing is just a smokescreen for the report’s real aim, which is to secure proportional shares for all who go fishing and more money in the form of compensation for quota owners.

The logic goes like this: recreational fishers are freeloaders who take fish out of the water that should be saved for industrial fishers. Because those fish aren’t caught by profit making exporters, the companies who go fishing lose out. Therefore we should introduce a licencing scheme for recreational fishers so we limit who goes fishing and how much those freeloaders can take in the future. Doing this would also deny the public any opportunity to implement conservation measures without the benefits being absorbed into commercial fishing.

It’s called “reallocation” and the industry has been pushing for it for many years. It is a way of dragging recreational fishers down to the same level as industrial fishers while legitimising giving taxpayer funds to commercial interests for fish they never owned! That’s just not on.

The report assumes recreational fishers don’t contribute anything to the fisheries, yet we know recreational fishing generates almost $2 billion a year in economic activity. It assumes the cost of establishing a peak body will eventually be covered by a licencing scheme. Licencing and policing recreational fishers will not be cheap, and it assumes that the fish we catch “belong” to commercial fishing interests when the resource currently belongs to all New Zealanders.

We know there are around 600,000 New Zealand fishers and another 100,000 tourists who go fishing each year. That number is fairly static over time so there is no massive problem to resolve.

And when people say there’s no way to know how many fish are taken recreationally, that’s not true either. NIWA conducts a survey of the number and sizes of fish harvested. This survey is backed up by NRB research (a household study) and aerial overflight surveys. The last national survey in 2011-12 delivered credible results that have been peer reviewed by a panel of international and local scientists.

There are huge problems with the way our fisheries are managed but recreational fishing isn’t the cause of them. At most, we account for around 6% of all the fish taken from New Zealand waters. The problem lies with industrial fishing methods and a Ministry that declines to take up its role as watchdog for the fisheries. Instead, the Ministry incentivises industrial fishing. As the director of the Ministry for Primary Industries said last year if they told the truth half of inshore commercial fishers would be out of business. That’s where the real problem lies.

MPI has already ruled out licencing and various politicians have acknowledged it would be political suicide, so there’s no way this can get traction. But that’s not what they’re after. They just want to divert attention away from the real problems of the industry.

LegaSea is calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the way our fisheries are managed. We’ve long been told we have a “world class” scheme but in reality we have widespread dumping of fish, fish stocks “managed” to the point of collapse and a real risk that we will see fish stocks collapse in our lifetimes.

The time to act is now. Join LegaSea and help fight for our right to go fishing and have abundant fisheries in the future.

For more information please contact:
Paul Brislen
[email protected]