Anger among fisherfolk over cuts
Drastic cuts to the snapper limit for anglers could become an election issue, tackle dealer Greg Hill says.
The current limit is nine, but new proposals by the Ministry for Primary Industries could see that slashed to three.
And that has fanned widespread anger among thousands of recreational fishers, who are outraged there is little change to commercial quotas.
‘‘At least one-third of us like to fish. That’s a lot of votes,’’ says Mr Hill, who runs the Go Fish store.
He is one of many leading anglers who are urging people to make submissions to the ministry, which runs the country’s fisheries.
‘‘Why is the recreational fisher taking the hit? It’s not the recreational fisher who wastes at least 450 tonnes of fish each year,’’ Mr Hill says.
‘‘The ministry, and Government, would be very unwise to underestimate how strongly recreational fishers feel about this issue,’’ he says.
‘‘A lower snapper limit is OK by me.
‘‘But any cuts should be fair, backed by up-to-date, accurate statistics, and shared between the recreational and commercial sectors.’’
The proposals are a restriction on the rights of New Zealanders to gather food says Mandy Kupenga, spokeswoman for recreational fishery representatives LegaSea.
‘‘What we’re facing is a loss of fundamental rights, a loss of income for business owners, and importantly a loss of food on the table for families.’’
Matt Watson, the country’s bestknown angler, who has had his own series on the Discovery Channel, says it is not over-dramatic to say the social consequences could be ‘‘life changing’’.
‘‘I think the value of our lifestyle in New Zealand is at stake here,’’ Mr Watson says.
The ministry is midway through consultation on how to manage and rebuild snapper populations in what is called the Snapper 1 Fishery area, running from the top of East Northland to the Bay of Plenty. It has three major positions under consideration – keeping the total commercial, customary and recreational catch at 7550 tonnes, raising the limit by 500 tonnes, or lowering it by 500 tonnes.
One thing is common to all three plans – tighter controls on recreational fishing, including drastic catch limits and higher minimum sizes.
The ministry says it is recreational fishers who are pushing the number of snapper into danger – since 1997 recreational fishers in the area have been allowed to take 2550 tonnes.
But on average for the last five years the recreational catch has been well over the limit, which is estimated at 3365 tonnes a year.
Recreational fishers believe they have been unfairly lumped with the responsibility of rebuilding the snapper stock. Since 1985 they have had four cuts to their bag limits and size. Commercial fishing limits have remained predominantly unchanged since 1986.
With the ministry currently considering the changes, Mr Watson says it is time for recreational fishers to make their voices heard by making submissions.
People power: Tackle dealer Greg Hill warns that anglers are a formidable voting bloc.