LEGASEA LAT­EST

Of­ten touted as a way of help­ing in­crease stock num­bers, what real mer­its are there in a ban?

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Should we ban fish­ing dur­ing the spawn­ing sea­son

A ban on snap­per fish­ing dur­ing spawn­ing sea­son is of­ten pro­moted as a way of al­low­ing more fish to spawn, pro­vid­ing more eggs in the wa­ter and more fish in the fu­ture. While it seems like the right thing to do there is no agreed view from the ex­perts on whether this strat­egy would in­crease fish num­bers or what months a ban should ap­ply given that spawn­ing can ex­tend from Oc­to­ber to March.

Be­fore any change the pur­pose for im­ple­ment­ing a clo­sure needs to be clear. Is it to re­duce fish­ing ef­fort just dur­ing spawn­ing or is it aimed at re­duc­ing to­tal catch? Is the is­sue more about com­mer­cial meth­ods?

Would the clo­sure ap­ply to both com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing? Where could you fish in the Hau­raki Gulf dur­ing spring and avoid snap­per? Do we ban all fish­ing in the Gulf? Would pres­sure go on more vul­ner­a­ble species such as trevally and king­fish?

Cur­rent science is in­con­clu­sive. At the very least, re­mov­ing trawl­ing from in­shore wa­ters to pro­tect the habi­tat for the early, crit­i­cal life-stages of snap­per is long over­due and fits with Legasea's Prin­ci­ple #2 - Stop sense­less waste.

The fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion has been ex­tracted from the Min­istry's ple­nary re­port: “Fish­ing within ag­gre­ga­tions of spawn­ing fish may have the po­ten­tial to dis­rupt spawn­ing be­hav­iour and, for some fish­ing meth­ods or species, may lead to re­duced spawn­ing suc­cess. No re­search has been con­ducted on dis­rup­tion of snap­per spawn­ing, but ag­gre­ga­tions of spawn­ing snap­per of­ten re­ceive high com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing ef­fort.

“Ar­eas likely to be im­por­tant for snap­per spawn­ing in­clude the Hau­raki Gulf (Cradock Chan­nel, Coro­man­del Har­bour to the Firth of Thames, and be­tween the Noises, Tir­i­tiri Matangi and Kawau Is­lands, Ran­gaunu and Doubt­less Bay, the Bay of Is­lands, east­ern Bay of Plenty, and the coastal ar­eas adjacent to the har­bour mouths on the west coast such as the Manukau and Kaipara Har­bours.”

In our view, any clo­sure would need to ap­ply to both com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing, and in the ab­sence of any solid data it is most un­likely the politi­cians will stretch their thin pop­u­lar­ity stakes for the sake of a few snap­per.

Ed­i­tor’s note: The views ex­pressed in this col­umn do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views of NZ Fish­ing World.

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