Myth bust­ing around recre­ational fish­ing

New Zealand Fishing World - - Regular Contents -

In 2015, we have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing and more data than ever on the recre­ational har­vest na­tion­wide, par­tic­u­larly about catches in the pop­u­lar Hau­raki Gulf. In Novem­ber 2014 the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries pub­lished a re­port de­tail­ing na­tional and re­gional catch, by av­er­age weight per species and per­cent­ages of landed catch bags.

Science providers have told us they have bet­ter data on recre­ational har­vest than any other sec­tor be­cause there are un­cer­tain lev­els on cus­tom­ary har­vest, com­mer­cial dis­cards and poach­ing.

The 2014 re­port sum­marises the Na­tional Panel Sur­vey con­ducted in 2011-12. The sur­vey is the most com­pre­hen­sive study of recre­ational har­vest un­der­taken in New Zealand. The Na­tional Re­search Bureau (NRB) used a door-to- door sur­vey of 30,000 homes to re­cruit over 7000 fish­ers who re­ported their per­sonal catch over 12 months. Their catch was scaled up to es­ti­mate to­tal catch by New Zealand res­i­dents aged 15 years and older.

A con­cur­rent boat ramp sur­vey pro­vided data on the av­er­age weight of many of the com­mon species. For snap­per on the north­east coast of the North Is­land (SNA1), the av­er­age weight of fish kept was 1.03kg. The NRB re­sults were com­pared to an in­de­pen­dent NIWA sur­vey and the es­ti­mates were sim­i­lar. Both sur­veys es­ti­mated the to­tal recre­ational har­vest of snap­per in SNA1, dur­ing 2011-12, was just un­der 3,800 tonnes.

Th­ese sur­vey re­sults were used in the 2013 SNA1 man­age­ment re­view, which led to changes in the min­i­mum size limit (27 to 30cm) and lower bag limit (9 to 7) for recre­ational fish­ers. In his 2013 de­ci­sion, the Min­is­ter in­creased the over­all recre­ational al­lowance by 500 tonnes, to 3050 tonnes.

It seems that 2010-11 and 2011-12 were very good years for snap­per catch in the Hau­raki Gulf, where most snap­per fish­ing oc­curs.

On­go­ing NIWA sur­veys show to­tal recre­ational har­vest has de­clined in all three sub-ar­eas of SNA1, prob­a­bly due to fish move­ment and a lack of fish in close since 2011-12. Es­ti­mated catch has de­clined around 18% in East North­land, more than 50% in the Hau­raki Gulf and around 47% in the Bay of Plenty.

Th­ese de­clines are oc­cur­ring in the same sub-ar­eas where com­mer­cial fish­ers re­port large snap­per num­bers get­ting in the way of catching other species, par­tic­u­larly in the Hau­raki Gulf.

Com­par­ing trawl catch with rod and reel fish­ing is a waste of time, es­pe­cially when the com­mer­cial min­i­mum size limit re­mains at 25cm and a 30cm MLS ap­plies to recre­ational snap­per catch.

What next?

Legasea is sup­port­ing the New Zealand Sport Fish­ing Coun­cil fish­eries man­age­ment team who are in­volved in the on­go­ing SNA1 Strat­egy Plan dis­cus­sions, man­age­ment and science pro­cesses.

The next round of large-scale NIWA and Na­tional Panel sur­veys are due in 2016-17, but that all de­pends on the Min­istry hav­ing ac­cess to suf­fi­cient funds, up to $2.5M, from an al­ready tight bud­get. This com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional Panel Sur­vey busts the myth of ‘un­known recre­ational catch’. Re­peat­ing the sur­vey to val­i­date cur­rent re­sults would be even bet­ter.

Let’s hope the Min­is­ter sees the value in sup­port­ing an­other sur­vey, be­cause recre­ational fish­ing is recog­nised as be­ing the 5th most pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity for adult New Zealan­ders.

What’s more, recre­ational fish­ing con­trib­utes to our so­cial and cul­tural well­be­ing, and sup­ports a vast range of in­dus­tries. And for many of us, fish­ing to feed our fam­ily and friends de­fines who we are and what it means to be a kiwi.

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