Zero catch call 'irresponsible'

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 13:42 10/03/2014

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Calls to close the top of the South Island scallop fishery are "irresponsible", the quota holders' company says.

Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company, which represents the 32 quota holders who operate the 13 boats still harvesting scallops in the area, says in a submission to the Ministry for Primary Industries that any push to reduce the allowable catch to zero was "irresponsible, fails to recognise the interests of commercial or iwi stakeholders, and fails to recognise the input of commercial fishers over the years".

The New Zealand Sports Fishing Council has called for a zero total allowable commercial catch of scallops in the top of the South Island, saying the scallop beds are in such a bad state they need a chance to rebuild.

The ministry issued a consultation document in January proposing two options for the top of the South Island scallop fishery:

Option 1, the status quo, with 827 tonnes available to catch, to be split between commercial (747 tonnes), recreational (40 tonnes) and customary (40 tonnes);

Option 2, a drop to 130 tonnes, to be split between commercial (46 tonnes), recreational (40 tonnes), and customary (40 tonnes), with a 4-tonne mortality allowance.

The day before that consultation closed, the ministry proposed a third option:

A total catch of 500 tonnes, to be split between commercial (416 tonnes), recreational (40 tonnes), and customary (40 tonnes), with a 4-tonne mortality allowance.

Consultation was extended for another 10 days.

The Challenger submission, written by lawyer Tony Stallard, says it would prefer the status quo.

However, it recognised the obligations on the minister and accepted the third option as an appropriate level. "We support the view that the particular option reflects a proper and responsible balance between the obligations incumbent upon the minister and the interests of the commercial stakeholders to further develop and enhance the fishery."

Challenger chairman Buzz Falconer said the company was "one of many" stakeholders who had asked for an extension of time on the consultation.

The commercial sector did not want to fight with recreational fishermen, but the view of the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association that dredging had "stuffed the fishery" was not right, he said.

It was a one-in-100-year flood in December 2011 that had carried huge amounts of sediment into Golden and Tasman Bays that had killed the scallops and other seabed life such as whelks and mussels, Mr Falconer said.

The industry had been quietly reseeding the beds, but once the spat were on the seabed, Mother Nature took over, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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