The Government’s decision to drop controversial changes to fisheries legislation is welcome news to fishing and environmental groups concerned about threats to fish sustainability.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker has announced he will progress the part of the Fisheries Amendment Bill that enables monitoring cameras aboard commercial fishing vessels from 1 November.
But the hotly contested elements of the Amendment Bill that threatened the sustainability of popular fish species such as blue cod, crayfish and snapper have been set aside.
The biggest issue for many was the proposal to introduce pre-set decision rules – a formula that would be used by officials to adjust annual commercial harvest limits to maximise catch for various species. Applying pre-set decision rules had caused the demise of crayfish in the Hauraki Gulf and drastic cuts were required in 2018 to help restore crayfish numbers. It also dilutes public input into decision making processes and ignores the Minister’s statutory obligation to take into account the broader environmental, cultural and social aspects when setting harvesting levels.
LegaSea spokesperson Scott Macindoe said: “We’re grateful for the Minister pulling the controversial provisions and prioritising the environment. Minister Parker is being consistent with his commitment to be cautious and act in the public interest. All New Zealanders benefit from having more fish in the water and a vibrant marine environment.”
“Fishing provides a vital source of food for all New Zealanders so it was unacceptable to try to reduce sustainability measures that would threaten marine abundance.”
Macindoe said: “The decision shows the Minister is alive to the public’s concerns and we applaud the Minister and Cabinet for doing the right thing, for the marine environment and all New Zealanders.”
New Zealand Sport Fishing Council President Ian Steele said: “It’s pleasing the Minister has listened to our concerns and is seeking to look after all New Zealanders. The prudent thing to do was to separate out parts of the Bill that were unrelated to getting cameras on boats, and get on with developing an updated monitoring and enforcement regime. Common sense has prevailed.”
Earlier in the year more than 6,000 people supported the Minister splitting the Bill. On the other hand, Minister Parker was under a lot of pressure from the Opposition and commercial interests to progress the original Bill. Provisions crafted to enable cameras on boats were championed by Eugenie Sage and the Green Party. The proposed pre-set decision rules had caused widespread unease, so objectors will be pleased to support the final passage of the Bill through Parliament and into law.
Record of process and submissions – NZ Sport Fishing Council website
Parliamentary record – Passage of Bill to enactment