Blue cod rules hurt tourism

CHLOE WINTER
Last updated 08:54 17/07/2014
Aaron Branks
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
REEL CRISIS: Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association president Peter Watson, also owner of Vortex Marine in Blenheim, says blue cod fishing regulation have drastically affected businesses in the region.

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Many fishermen have abandoned the Marlborough Sounds as a result of the controversial blue cod regulations, which has put a strain on Marlborough businesses, according to a council briefing paper.

A Picton Think Tank briefing note to Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman and Marlborough District Council councillors states recent laws regarding blue cod have made a huge impact on tourism in Picton.

A briefing note by council support services manager Dean Heiford said a group of business owners, councillors and Picton residents "who have got Picton at heart" had heard that between 7500 and 10,000 fishermen had gone out of the region to fish because of the blue cod rules.

Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association president Peter Watson, also owner of Vortex Marine, said from a retail point of view, fishing and diving gear sales had dropped.

"I think a lot of people will tell you there has been a decline in sales.

"A lot of fishing has stopped in the Marlborough Sounds too. There is no point in going out with $100 worth of fuel for two cod."

Business has halved, Watson said.

"People just don't come in . . . they just don't fish [in the Sounds] anymore."

Pelorus Tours owner Gary Orchard said he had also seen business dramatically drop.

"We have gone from 35 charters a year and now we are down to two . . . they are just not coming.

"The rules are so far out of practicality."

Lots of people were heading to Kaikoura and Nelson but he could not put a figure on it, he said.

"Eighty per cent of my fishing clientele go elsewhere in the country because of the blue cod rules. It's a real shame."

Sounds Connection owner Mark Baxter, who also operates fishing charters, said people were not going to come to Marlborough to catch two fish.

"I can't say what the actual reason is, but a lot of people are dissatisfied, let's put it that way."

He had probably seen a 75 per cent decrease in business since the regulations were introduced in April 2011, Baxter said.

"We've never gone back to what we used to do.

"The last good year was in 2008 before they closed the Sounds."

Port Marlborough chief executive Ian McNabb said: "It's had quite an impact on our marine business."

Fishermen usually came in large crowds over Christmas and holiday periods, McNabb said.

"There used to be a lot of people out there fishing . . . [but] the numbers aren't going up anymore.

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"It might never get back to that."

McNabb said he would like a solution that would lure fishermen back and be good for all businesses.

"There has to be a solution . . . I don't understand all this nonsense. It's impacting right across the town."

New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council president Geoff Rowling said the regulations have had a "significant economic impact" in the Sounds.

"The recreational fishing sector all over the country has had an absolute guts full of being shifted from pillar to post."

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said anything that impacted negatively on the perception of Marlborough as a welcoming destination was a concern.

"We hope the industry finds a solution that will support the positioning of the Marlborough Sounds as New Zealand's marine playground."

- The Marlborough Express

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