The fish are biting and stocks increasing

CHARLOTTE SQUIRE
Last updated 12:00 16/02/2013

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Fish stocks are increasing in Golden Bay with snapper even being caught off the Tarakohe breakwater and blue cod fishing described as excellent by Port Golden Bay's harbour manager Alan Kilgour.

"There are times when fishermen go out and don't catch but in general both recreational and commercial fishermen will catch more fish right now," said Mr Kilgour, who has managed Port Golden Bay (Tarakohe) for 10 years.

"We've had a very good snapper season. That was before Christmas. They come in early November and leave in March.

"There were good catches of snapper, there's excellent cod fishing at Separation Point and there's lot of tarakihi being caught."

"Quite a few kingfish are being caught. They're a good sports fish. They're being caught around the mussel farms and Separation Point.

"It's been interesting that snapper fisheries are getting better and better each year. There have been many small snapper caught off the breakwater. And kids have been getting plenty of spotties and herrings. Families can come down and have a good day's fishing."

Mr Kilgour said he thought the increasing snapper were due to the New Zealand quota management system.

He said improved fishing conditions in Golden Bay were offsetting the decline in scallops, which had dropped away after last December's severe flooding.

"It was all doom and gloom and we've had a huge down turn in boats going scalloping, but it's been made up by people coming fishing," he said.

He also said he thought Golden Bay's mussel farms were creating a good habitat for fish stock.

New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council President Geoff Rowling said he could confirm there were greater numbers of snapper in Golden Bay and that their presence was supporting other fish species to thrive in Golden Bay waters.

He said this was due to the fact that commercial fishermen couldn't afford to catch too much snapper as a by-catch.

"There's no doubt it's been an excellent season for snapper. The evidence is pretty much overwhelming from a recreational perspective.

"It's because the snapper have been breeding successfully since 2000. We've had warmer temperatures in the top of the South Island since then, which means better conditions for snapper to breed.

"Historically the generally rule of thumb with snapper was we had one good breeding season every ten years, but since 2000 we've had a rise in temperatures. The environmental conditions appear to have been more conducive to snapper breeding.

"There's a lot of talk about climate change and it may be that temperatures in Tasman and Golden Bay are higher than 15 years ago," he said.

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Mr Rowling said of the "101 influential" factors involved in the increase of snapper, the commercial fishing quota was significant.

"The commercial quota for snapper limits the amount of fishing commercial fishing boats can do in the Bay. They can't afford to continually over-catch their quota of snapper or they get sent a bill. The abundance of snapper means commercial fishermen can't afford the over-catch while they're fishing for other species."

This is creating a huge expansion in the recreational fishing industry.

Mr Rowling cautioned the fishing industry to maintain its sustainability.

"It's good they're going that way but the trick now is to ensure that we don't have carte blanche quotas allocated to commercial fishermen who ask for larger quotas."

He also said that it would only take a slight temperature change for snapper stocks to go back to the way they had been.

- The Nelson Mail

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