Commercial fishing quota cut

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 13:49 20/03/2014

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The Government is cutting some commercial fishing quota just as a fishing lobby group speaks out about recreational fishers missing out.

The recreational fishing group lobby that stopped the Government cutting recreational snapper quotas last year is launching a campaign over alleged overfishing of crayfish.

LegaSea and the Sport Fishing Council say the Government has allowed commercial cray fishermen to lift 2 million pots a year while the public catch is crashing.

"The public are simply being squeezed out of the fishery," LegaSea says.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy last year tried cut back the Snapper I (SNA 1) recreational catch quota from nine fish a day to three. It sparked a political firestorm which led to Guy easing the catch from nine fish a day to seven.

SNA-1 covered waters around the top half of the North Island.

LegaSea is now focused on overfishing in the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty crayfish area (CRA 2).

But just as they cast their first lines, Guy announced changes to catch limits for seven commercial fish stocks.

The new limits come into effect next month and do not affect recreational and customary quotas (full details here.)

The commercial catch limit for crayfish in the Bay of Plenty (CRA 2) has been cut by 36 tonnes to 416 tonnes and Wellington/Hawkes Bay (CRA 4) cut by 33 tonnes to 662 tonnes.

Gisborne crayfish (CRA 3) commercial limits have been lifted 35 tonnes to 390 tonnes with similar increases in Otago (CRA 7) and Westland/Taranaki (CRA 9).

Guy has also announced what he calls "a significant increase in the southern blue whiting fishery near Campbell Island (SWB 6I), enabling a rise in the catch limit from 30,000 tonnes to 40,000 tonnes.

Blue whiting is a major industrial fish with the catch processed into fish fingers, fishmeal and pet food.

The fishery is environmentally sensitive as it is the area where endangered New Zealand sea lions are occasionally snared by fishing boats.

Guy said commercial fishing boats had agreed on sea lion exclusion devices and there was full observer coverage on boats.

"So far these have been effective at minimising the capture of sea lions in the squid fishery in the sub-Antarctic."

The Tasman and Nelson Bays scallop commercial catch limit has been cut from 747 tonnes to 400 tonnes.

"We need to ensure the fisheries are maintained at healthy levels for all New Zealanders," Guy said.

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LegaSea say they are most worried about the CRA 2 lobster catch.

They say CRA-2 commercial pot lifts have increased from 250,000 per annum in 1999 to 530,000 per annum in 2012 for the same catch.

Most of it is going to commercial fishing against a "plummeting recreational catch ... [that] tells us this is a tale of stock collapse," the coalition says.

"Yet CRA-2 is home to 2 million people; it is by far the most important recreational and customary cray fishery in the country."

CRA-2 is already the most depleted stock in New Zealand. The public is catching only about 28 per cent of their entitlement in CRA-2, the coalition says.

LegaSea are calling for the Government to halve the total allowable catch in CRA-2 and to insist on a management plan.

Campaign co-ordinator Adam El-Agez said the quota management system was failing, and was even allowing some commercial operators to catch undersized crayfish around the Gisborne coast.

He called it "a blatant tool for denying the public catch so they can be exported to China".

In today's announcement Guy said he has approved a new management approach on CRA 2.

"If the numbers of crayfish don't improve then I will be looking to make further changes."

- Fairfax Media

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