Update on Motiti, RMA fishing controls, and the NZSFC response

March 19, 2020

Recent court decisions concerning waters around Motiti Island have surprised the recreational fishing public. The Court has essentially approved the ability for regional council’s to control fishing under the Resource Management Act (RMA). These decisions mean that there is potential for the closure of fishing areas in the Territorial Sea all around New Zealand. The Territorial Sea extends to 12 nautical miles off the coastline. A detailed summary of these Court decisions and the actions the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council (NZSFC) is taking to protect recreational interests can be found here.

In short:

1. NZSFC has received legal advice that it would be futile to seek to challenge the existing court decisions concerning Motiti. The best approach that can be taken is to work with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to monitor the situation and marine environment, while seeking the re-opening of these areas to low impact recreational fishing in due course.

2. NZSFC has intervened in Environment Court cases in Northland and Taranaki which seek RMA fishing controls over large areas. NZSFC will be staunchly protecting recreational interests in these areas and liaising with local members as these cases move through the Court system.

3. Regional Council decisions in Marlborough have endorsed benthic protection areas under the RMA, which shows how RMA fishing controls could be used to limit the impact of destructive commercial fishing practices. NZSFC considers that this is a model which could be adopted in the Northland and Taranaki regions.

In NZSFC’s view, the need to resort to the RMA to try to protect marine ecosystems is another symptom of a failed quota management system. It is also further evidence of the urgent need for comprehensive reform of fisheries management, including the quota management system.