Candidate blasts slot rule

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 09:16 03/06/2014

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The "slot rule" for blue cod in the Marlborough Sounds only serves to reduce fish numbers and fails to ensure a sustainable fishery, Labour's Kaikoura candidate Janette Walker says.

Walker spent last Friday fishing in the Sounds with Wellington fishing advocate Hugh Shields and a TV3 news crew.

She said of the 20 blue cod the group caught, only three were "in the slot", the 30-35 centimetre legal size. The remaining 17 had to be returned to the sea, and shags managed to catch and eat nearly every fish put back.

"The insistence by the Ministry for Primary Industries that the slot rule be adhered to, despite numerous requests for the slot rule to be abolished by various organisations in the fishing fraternity, has led to mismanagement resulting in a depleted fishery and a skewed male to female ratio."

Male fish make up roughly 74 per cent of the fish population and females 26 per cent, Walker said. Blue cod in the Marlborough Sounds mature sexually at 21- 26cm. It takes nine years for females to reach 30cm.

Recreational fishing groups have been pushing for rule changes to the Marlborough Sounds blue cod fishery, particularly around the slot rule and the "transit rule" which prevents fish being filleted until they have been landed onshore.

Walker said better management structures were required.

"To rebuild the blue cod stock in the Sounds Fisheries Management area and restore balance to the blue cod population gender mix requires a strategy that promotes not only better management but better fishing and fish handling techniques."

Abolishing the slot rule and raising the legal size to 35cm would allow fishers to target the bigger fish and females below 35cm to grow, Walker said.

"As one local grandfather said to me after fishing with his grandson, he will not fish again until the slot rule is abolished. His grandson caught a 54cm blue cod and couldn't understand why it had to be returned. The fish floated belly up, died and sank. The fish would have fed the whole family.

"His grandson couldn't see the sense in that. If a kid can experience first hand the stupidity of the slot rule, why can't Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy?"

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- The Marlborough Express

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