Cod slot rules need to go, say political hopefuls

The region's four election candidates have told a group of Marlborough fishermen that the blue cod slot rules should be abolished.

However, that was all the politicians could agree on at a meeting of the Marlborough Recreational Fishers' Association on Thursday.

The slot rule limits the legal blue cod catch in the Marlborough Sounds to fish between 30 centimetres and 35cm in length, and the transit rule means they cannot be filleted until they are landed.

Both rules are opposed by the association.

Most controversial was Labour's Janette Walker, who proposed a licence for recreational fishers in the Marlborough Sounds as a way of funding a public advocacy group.

She proposed a licensing system for people aged between 18 and 65, along with a promise to abolish the slot and transit rule, lift the legal size to between 38cm and 40cm, have a two-fish bag limit, and survey fish stocks every two years.

The Green Party's Steffan Browning said the licensing proposal was worth discussing, even if the time was not right, he said.

"I think Janette is brave raising it when no-one wants it."

Former Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod Management Group member Mark Baxter interjected, saying that was not true.

The management group proposed a licence for recreational fishing to previous National fisheries minister Phil Heatley, who said "no way", Baxter said.

"So there are people who want it."

However, National's Stuart Smith and Steve Campbell, of NZ First, opposed the idea, both saying their parties would keep the fishing unlicensed.

All candidates talked about the importance of recreational fishing to Marlborough people.

Smith said a Te Korowai solution, as in Kaikoura, could be a model for the Marlborough Sounds. That would see the three sectors of recreational, commercial and iwi fishing work together in the fishery's management.

About 30 people attended the association's annual meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed to the Express that it will discuss options to replace two members of the Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod Management Group who resigned this week.

Mark Baxter and Martyn Barlow, foundation members of the group since 2009, said they were frustrated with the lack of influence the group had and a delay to change fishery rules until next October.

The ministry's inshore fisheries manager Steve Halley said a management group would meet with fisheries minister Nathan Guy next Thursday.

The blue cod fishery in the Marlborough Sounds was highly valued by fishers and visitors to the area, he said.

"Before any changes to the rules can be considered, the results from the 2013 potting survey need to be finalised so that robust scientific information can be incorporated into the review.," he said.

"The review process will take as long as necessary to ensure input by all interested parties and to make sure the rules ensure the long-term sustainability of this important fishery."

The Marlborough Express