Fisheries New Zealand has released management proposals that will affect 13 inshore finfish and shellfish stocks, and seven deepwater stocks. If changes are approved, they will apply from October this year. FNZ information is available online. Changes to the reporting regime for charter boat operators are also proposed.
Since 2010 charter vessels have been required to report the number of people and hours fished each trip plus the catch of eight different species and the numbers caught and kept. Also, the weights for two bluefin tuna species. The reporting requirements vary between regions. For example, blue cod catch data is required from all areas except northern waters. FNZ propose that blue cod catch from charter boats in all areas be mandatory. They also propose to add scallops, snapper and tarakihi to the reporting scheme.
We expect there will be a mixed response to the proposals. Some charter operators are already recording all species caught. Operators of the larger vessels may not consider the proposals practical if they have large fishing parties onboard and not enough crew to monitor how many fish are hooked, landed or released.
Another factor is the quality of the data. There are already question marks around some of the data submitted. The results of a research project to summarise all the charter records has found some data entered is simply implausible. The Ministry has not waited to see this record or the final results of a survey of charter skippers before announcing changes to the reporting requirements.
In the 2011-12 National Panel survey it was estimated only 3.2% of the total recreational harvest was taken from charter operations. In terms of finfish the estimate was higher, at 5.4%, and lower for non-finfish species, only 0.7%. Given these estimates the Minister needs to weigh up the costs and benefits of introducing more species into the reporting scheme.
There are reports of fish being poorly handled, kept out of the water too long and thrown back to become food for hungry birds. We do not want the wastage of fish to increase or to risk crew safety, so any new measures introduced to the charter vessel reporting scheme need to be well considered and practical.