Set net in popular fishing spot
A 400 metre-long commercial fishing net stretching across a popular recreational fishing ground in Auckland's Rangitoto Channel is turning up the heat in the bitter snapper war.
Kayaker Steven Fox discovered it thre weeks ago just 3 kilometres off Devonport's Narrow Neck.
He was shocked to find that kind of commercial operation so close to Auckland, just as the Ministry for Primary Industries seeks to slash the recreational snapper quota.
One of the proposals, to reduce the daily catch from nine to three, has infuriated fishers who say commercial operations are not facing cuts.
"It is a real show-stopper finding this," Mr Fox says.
"I've never seen one this close in to the city."
A couple of times a week Mr Fox paddles out from St Heliers to fish for snapper using a rod and line.
The fishing is usually pretty good but he was surprised to see a set net in an area in which they are not usually used, blocking a small bay.
He followed it to discover it measured 400m.
Commercial fishing is restricted in the Waitemata Harbour but between April and September commercial operators are allowed to use set nets for up to three hours at a time.
Mr Fox recorded a licence number of the buoys and an hour or so later in the distance saw a 6m-long vessel, Tangaroa, attend the net.
He says he was too far away to see its catch.
MPI records show Tangaroa was owned by Callum Molloy Ltd of Thames, but Mr Molloy says someone else now owned it.
He says there was a fierce battle between commercial and recreational fishing operators and it had got to the stage that police had made arrests for recreational fishers cutting commercial nets.
Mr Molloy says it was hard to make a living off commercial fishing, and as it was legal to use the nets, there was no issue.
"Who cares. It is legal, go hard. You are only allowed to catch the fish with what quota you have. When you get that, you cannot fish any more."
He criticised recreational fishers who, he said, wanted to limit commercial fishing while being allowed to catch as much as they want.
Mr Fox was surprised at the criticism.
"There are a lot of people who want to get rid of the nets; that is where the wastage is. Commercial guys can go out with long-lines and selectively catch them so they can be released alive if they need to."
It was well known that net-caught snapper was inferior to long-line fish.
"They stress in the nets, they are often in there for hours."
MPI is reviewing SNA1 - the snapper fishery from North Cape to eastern Bay of Plenty - saying it needs to recover.
Despite proposals to cut recreational catch limits there were no plans to reduce the $186 million SNA1 commercial catch. A decision will be made on October 1.
Our birthright under threat - Greg Hill's fishing column, P10
- © Fairfax NZ News
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