Group urges cod rule changes

Last updated 14:11 02/01/2014

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A court ruling last month highlighted that blue cod rules covering the Marlborough Sounds were not effective in protecting the fishery, a fishing group spokesman says.

Coalition of the Combined Clubs of Wellington spokesman Allan Davidson asked why the Ministry for Primary Industries was unable to react to the ruling by Judge John Strettell in the Christchurch District Court.

Bach owner Matthew Cox, of Christchurch, was found not guilty of breaching the regulations after he was found to be in possession of blue cod at Waikawa which he had landed and filleted at his family's bach.

Ministry regulations state that blue cod caught in the Sounds need to be landed whole so fisheries officers can check the fish are within the 30-35cm "slot rule".

They will not make an exception for people who fillet fish at their bach a day or two earlier and then carry it home through the Sounds.

Mr Davidson said this was at odds with other finfish throughout New Zealand covered by size limits but still able to be filleted and transported by sea. Since the court ruling could not change the law, ministry Nelson-Marlborough compliance manager Ian Bright's hands were tied, he said.

"He has no option other than to enforce a regulation that exists until changed by the minister in charge of fisheries, Nathan Guy.

"Until the rules are changed, frontline enforcement officers will be in the unfortunate, embarrassing and frustrating position of having to enforce rules which the courts will not uphold. Seems a bit of a waste of time and resources, really," he said.

The rule against transporting filleted blue cod by boat was not limited to bach owners, Mr Davidson said.

It also affected people staying on their boats for several days.

Blue cod can spoil if kept whole for any length of time and refrigerated space is often limited onboard boats. Boaties moored in the Sounds should be able to fillet fish to keep for a day or two, he said. The no-filleting rule did nothing to meet the aim of the regulations, which was to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery.

The "equally bizarre" transit rule encouraged fishing in the inner Sounds, putting more pressure on the area the ministry was trying to conserve and let recover, he said.

"Why would fishers spend more money on fuel going to better blue cod fishing in the Cook Strait, when the blue cod caught are usually in excess of 35cm and only two whole fish between 30cm and 35cm can be transported back through the inner Sounds?"

Mr Bright said the court ruling on December 20 did not license fishermen to transport filleted blue cod through the Sounds.

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"People understand that compliance officers need to see intact fish to measure the size."

Mr Cox had gone to a lot of trouble to prove to the court his filleted fish were legally caught, he said.

Mr Davidson said the coalition wanted Mr Guy to ditch rules the court had shown were unenforceable.

- The Marlborough Express

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