Bag limit changes – keep it simple

December 20, 2021
Action is finally being taken to stop the sale of vulnerable marine fish not protected by maximum daily bag limits. Currently no bag limits apply to pink and blue maomao, grandaddy hāpuku, pigfish and wrasses. We’ve sent the Minister our recommendations for a 3-daily bag limit for each of those species and for the regulations to be changed as soon as possible. Until recently, small reef species were not commonly targeted as there were bigger and more exciting fish to catch. As abundance of common species has declined, and as our population has diversified, these species are becoming mainstream. In June this year hundreds if not thousands of pink maomao were being landed into Tairua, Coromandel. This activity disgusted the local community and caused an online media sensation because there was no law against this activity. No bag limits applied to any of the landed fish. In the absence of any official response, local iwi Ngāti Hei stepped in and placed a rāhui, a ban, on any fishing for pink maomao within their rohe on the eastern Coromandel coast. This is a stop-gap measure until the regulations can catch up with current behaviour. It is not acceptable that MPI Fisheries Officers are powerless to respond because the regulations have not kept pace with changing fishing patterns. The Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Hon. David Parker has since directed Fisheries New Zealand to conduct a review bag limits for recreational fishers. In November our New Zealand Sport Fishing Council fisheries team submitted a comprehensive submission advocating for a modified version of Fisheries NZ’s Option 2 –
  1. A maximum limit of 3 per person per day of any of these reef species: pink and blue maomao, grandaddy hāpuku, pigfish and wrasses.
  2. No sale of these reef species.
  3. A widespread public consultation campaign in 2022 to discuss other important issues, including species that have bag limits separate to the combined limits.
Also, it is not acceptable for the Fisheries NZ to issue a once-over-lightly proposal paper and expect the 600,000 Kiwis who go fishing during the year to respond within 30 working days. This is just not feasible nor fair. Most people don’t even know the process is underway because there has been minimal advertising or public commentary to alert the public to the review process.  Let’s be reasonable Daily bag limits are the fundamental control that impacts on how, when and where we fish. For many of us it affects how many fish we take home to feed our family. For others, the maximum daily limit is not so important as time out with family and friends. We have urged the Minister to keep it simple, apply bag limits to the reef fish now and let’s have a comprehensive review of recreational fishing controls in 2022. After all, Fisheries New Zealand has been reviewing commercial fishing controls since 2015. They have  had numerous conversations with industry representatives and yet there is still no end in sight. Recreational fishers need to be given the same level of respect. There is no need for Fisheries NZ to try and rush through measures that will seriously impact on recreational fishers. We must respect peoples’ needs to have a say in their future fishing. The Minister must also recognise that fishing behaviour and opportunities are widely different in the north compared to the limited chances for southern fishers. A durable solution is what we all want so let’s sort out bag limits for reef fish then let’s engage people in a well-informed public debate. Southern bluefin tuna Since 2019 the amateur daily bag limit for southern bluefin tuna has been one per person, per day. This change was introduced by Gazette notice. For consistency, Fisheries NZ has proposed to include the daily bag limit of one per person within the amateur regulations. We support this change. This is an administrative change only with no material effect on recreational fishing.