Snapper limit cuts in the Upper North Island have recreational fishers fuming.
The daily bag cut from nine fish to seven daily per angler was needed in the Snapper 1 fishery because recreational fishers have been catching well above the set allowance in recent years, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.
The minimum fish size has also been raised from 27cm to 30cm and an extra 500 tonnes of snapper allocated to the recreational sector annually. The 4550 tonne commercial allocation is unchanged.
The announcement follows ministry consultation on how to manage and rebuild New Zealand's northern snapper population, which has "collapsed" alarmingly.
The process sparked outrage among recreational fishers due to a plan to cut the daily catch to three.
"This is a balanced and fair package which will ultimately mean more fish for everyone in the coming years," Mr Guy says.
But he admits he does not believe the current allocation reasonably reflects the importance of the fishery to recreational fishers. "As the stock increases in size I intend to increase the recreational share from the current 64:36 share to 50:50."
Hibiscus Coast Boating Club spokesman Mike Cahill says the Government's viewpoint is ridiculous. The commercial allocation has remained unchanged since the quota system was created in 1986, he says.
"But the recreational quota has been dropped five times in that period now and that is ridiculous.
"They are penalising the right of New Zealanders to fish to look after the commercial interests," he says.
More than 45,000 submissions were made against any changes, Mr Cahill says.
"There should be no change at all to recreational catch. Reducing it without any effect on the commercial sector is absolutely ridiculous."
The thousands of tonnes of bycatch wastage and dumping by the commercial fishing industry should be addressed first, Mr Cahill says.
Warkworth Gamefishing Club president Dave Adams says the Government's announcement is political damage control.
"It's effectively a case of ‘what can we get away with without a backlash?' I think they've been taken aback by people's interest and passion in this topic. The three snapper was a dramatic move but that was never really on the cards.
"Calling it a win for recreational fishers is a joke."
Recreational fishing advocacy group LegaSea says the changes, effective from April 2014, will contribute less than 1 per cent to rebuilding the fishery in the next five years and are unfair.
"They're reducing people's ability to catch fish for something that's not going to make a material difference on the rebuild of the fishery," LegaSea spokeswoman Mandy Kupenga says. "Three centimetres may not sound like much but 40 per cent of people fish from the shore and it will make a huge difference to them."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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