Pink maomao uproar sees rule change
A Coromandel community is celebrating a win after its uproar over the mass taking of an unprotected fish species has prompted a nationwide regulation change.
Last year Tairua residents rallied together, calling on the Government to rethink catch limits after reports of a largescale taking of pink maomao.
Fisheries New Zealand investigations saw the fishermen not prosecuted, but the uproar from the community had amajor sway in the agency’s decision, Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said.
Local Mike Bhana said the change in legislation comes as a relief to a community fearful that a ‘‘legal loophole’’ would lead to further kaimoana exploitation.
‘‘This is great news for the community and for it to have happened so quickly is a bit of a coup for the small town of Tairua,’’ Bhana told Stuff.
‘‘Our taste and our communities have changed a lot in the last 20 years – the legislation was brought in and species like pink maomao, pigfish and granddaddy hapuka have now become fashionable to eat.
‘‘So the legislation needed to change, and the reality is that 20 fish per person is a lot and there’s absolutely no reason why anyone should take any more than that,’’ Bhana said.
The call for change began in June when Bhana – a local documentary film-maker – shot a video exposing fishermen with a large chilly bin on a boat full of the longfin perch, or mātā.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker told Stuff he had seen the video that had been posted online, ‘‘and on the face of it, it looks greedy’’.
This led to Tairua residents blocking access to their main wharf in protest. A petition then circulated online where more than 7100 signatures were received calling for recreational limits to be imposed on pink maomao by the minister.
Of the thousands of finfish species found in New Zealand waters, only 43 species had a daily recreational fishing limit, leaving the rest open to overfishing.
This led to a review – running from October 6 to November 18 – which received 1467 submissions.
Ngāti Hei kaumātua Joe Davis said this journey had been a revelation for a lot of people, highlighting just how outdated the regulations were.
The community had a real fear that without protection, the pink maomao would become a ‘‘discovered market’’, but the Government’s quick regulation change shows the ‘‘tides are changing’’.
‘‘I’m very happy with this news,’’ Davis said.
‘‘Kiwis have long had a ‘she’ll be right’ kind of attitude when it comes to the moana, but the Government’s new regulations and the number of people in support of it shows that attitude is changing.’’
The new regulations, to begin on May 5, will include all finfish species – including unprotected ones such as the pink maomao – in the combined daily bag limit of 20 fish per person.
Finfish species with individual bag limits will also be included in the daily total.
Specified baitfish and freshwater eels are not included, and have their own separate limits additional to the combined daily bag limit.
An example of a species with an individual daily limit is kingfish, which has a daily limit of three per angler.
These individual limits will be retained but are now included within the combined daily bag limit.
Parker said there has been a change in what people catch and eat, and the rules need to be updated to reflect this.
‘‘This puts an end to excessive take, which could affect the sustainability of a species, and also makes the rules more consistent across the country and easier to follow.’’