Fishery options defended

Primary Industries Ministry deputy director-general Scott Gallacher yesterday defended reopening consultation on the top of the South Island scallop fishery, saying a range of stakeholders had queried the original two options.

Marlborough recreational fishing groups are concerned the ministry reopened consultation and added a third option with a large commercial catch quota just a day before the consultation was supposed to close.

However, Mr Gallacher said feedback from stakeholders during consultation suggested the range of total allowable catch options for the fishery may have appeared too limited. Those stakeholders included "a full range of people, from the commercial sector through to the customary", he said.

To ensure stakeholders were clear on the full range of options, the ministry developed a third option, and extended the consultation timeframe.

It said the addition of Option 3 indicates that the options are not necessarily as stark as had been originally conveyed.

Mr Gallacher said the ministry wanted to do justice to the process and to stakeholders.

"We want people to feel able and empowered to express other options."

However, within the discussion document the ministry put out with its letter, it said the two options were not the only possibilities.

"MPI notes the Minister has broad discretion and these options are not exhaustive. MPI invites feedback on any intermediate or additional options that stakeholders may have. MPI is aware that tangata whenua and stakeholders may have alternative strategies to support the rebuild of the SCA 7 (top of the South Island scallop) fishery.

"MPI will consider other measures such as voluntary measures or future regulatory changes that may encourage a rebuild of the fishery."

Mr Gallacher said the extension of consultation was to reinforce that commitment of the ministry to consider properly other options.

The minister received 27 submissions on the review when it closed last Monday, and these would be collated and analysed. The ministry would advise Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, and he would announce his decisions on catch limits before the start of the fishing year on April 1.

A spokesman for Mr Guy said he had been informed of the ministry's decision to extend the consultation.

The Marlborough Express