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The new Marl­bor­ough Sounds

blue cod rules, (ef­fec­tive 20th De­cem­ber 2015) will not please ev­ery­one, and that is prob­a­bly a good thing. But one thing ev­ery­one is happy about is the waste­ful SLOT RULE is gone!

Com­mer­cial op­er­a­tors might not be happy with the spawn­ing sea­son clo­sure ap­ply­ing to their sec­tor, the same as it does to recre­ational, and there has been some grum­bling about “com­pen­sa­tion for lost property rights”. Com­mer­cial will take an­other (per­ceived) hit if and when Nick Smith an­nounces the Recre­ational Only Fish­ing Parks in the Sounds.

Some recre­ational fish­er­men, es­pe­cially in Nel­son and Tas­man Bay, are not happy with their daily bag limit be­ing re­duced from three to two and there have been calls for a 30% cut to com­mer­cial quota with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing that Com­mer­cial have just taken a 30% re­duc­tion in the num­ber of months which they can fish, or that, as history shows, Com­mer­cial are not the great­est in­flu­ence on blue cod abun­dance in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds. Let me ex­plain - When recre­ational fish­ing was banned be­tween 2008 and 2011 the fish­ery bounced back and be­came hugely abun­dant, de­spite com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity con­tin­u­ing and de­spite com­mer­cial land­ings in­creas­ing dur­ing that pe­riod. Im­me­di­ately af­ter Recre­ational fish­ing re­sumed (with the waste­ful SLOT RULE in place) the sci­en­tific sur­veys be­tween 2012 and 2015 showed sig­nif­i­cant de­clines. Th­ese re­sults prove that recre­ational fish­ing pres­sure is the main driver of blue cod size and abun­dance in the Sounds, not com­mer­cial.

Com­mer­cial blue cod quota for area BCO7 has been con­strained to 70 tonnes since it was set in 1992, this has not al­tered. Ap­prox­i­mately 30 tonnes are taken out of Sta­tis­ti­cal Area 017, which in­cludes the Marl­bor­ough Sounds and Cook Strait. There are only about six to nine cod pot­ters op­er­at­ing in Sta­tis­ti­cal Area 017 and their eye is on the long term sus­tain­abil­ity of their busi­nesses, not the over ex­ploita­tion of the fish­ery.

By con­trast the num­ber of recre­ational fish­ers has dou­bled or tre­bled since 1992 with a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in har­vest. No­body ac­tu­ally knows how much recre­ational fish­ers take, but with at least 20,000 recre­ational fish­er­men in the Nel­son – Marl­bor­ough re­gion, it is cer­tainly more than Com­mer­cial.

The prob­lem is not one of Recre­ational verses Com­mer­cial, it is more about the global trend; an ever in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple, tar­get­ing and ever de­creas­ing num­ber of fish, with ever im­prov­ing tech­nol­ogy. Put sim­ply, we have be­come too ef­fec­tive at catching fish, and there are too many of us for the fish to re­pro­duce fast enough.

Add to that the stresses put on coastal fish­eries through the ever in­creas­ing num­ber of en­vi­ron­men­tal threats such as habi­tat de­struc­tion, sil­ta­tion caused by forestry, runoff from farming, aqua­cul­ture and in­va­sive marine pests and you have a cock­tail for dis­as­ter which is not Recre­ational verses Com­mer­cial based.

The prob­lem is MPI con­tinue to cling on to the 1986 Quota Man­age­ment Sys­tem, which is an ob­so­lete, sin­gle species busi­ness model, as if it is still, “world lead­ing!?” It is not. The QMS sim­ply con­trols the rate of ex­trac­tion, but does noth­ing to in­crease breed­ing in­puts. For a bet­ter, more sus­tain­able, fish­eries model GOOGLE Rock­fish Con­ser­va­tion Ar­eas, Canada. This is the model NZ should be fol­low­ing.

Hugh Shields


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