Anger among fish­er­folk over cuts

Central Leader - - NEWS -

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.

Photo: PETER ELEY

Peo­ple power: Tackle dealer Greg Hill warns that an­glers are a for­mi­da­ble vot­ing bloc.

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