Groups clash over snapper catch limits
Recreational and commercial fishers are at odds over the Ministry for Primary Industries' proposed catch limit increases for snapper and kingfish in the top of the south.
The recreational lobby wants the total catch for both species to be held where it is while more information is gathered.
Commercial fishers say the MPI is right to propose increases, which could save the businesses of some inshore operators.
Submissions closed on August 9, with the ministry offering two options for each: the status quo or an increase.
For snapper, option 2 is to lift the total allowable catch from 306 to 357 tonnes in the Challenger area (SNA7), which covers all of the Marlborough Sounds, Tasman and Golden bays and the West Coast.
Of that increase, the commercial total would rise from 200 to 220 tonnes, customary (Maori) take would stay at 16 tonnes, recreational would rise from 90 to 99 tonnes and other sources of fishing-related mortality from 0 to 22 tonnes.
Port Nelson Fishermen's Association president Matthew Hardyment said this was a "minuscule" commercial increase and was badly needed to cover snapper bycatch which otherwise forced skippers to tie up.
This was because snapper caught as bycatch by boats targeting flounder and gurnard cost them $8 a kilo or more to buy quota for, with fishermen getting only $3.50 a kilo for their catch.
Snapper had become so plentiful and were in the Tasman Bay area for so long each year that it was uneconomic to go fishing without snapper quota, he said.
"They're finding they're better off to tie their boats to the wharf."
Before the devastation of the snapper fishery in the 1970s by big boats pair trawling, there was "probably 5000 tonne a year coming out of Tasman Bay", and a total catch of 357 tonnes was "not even a drop in a bucket" compared with that, Mr Hardyment said.
"If the snapper keep on breeding the way they're going, it's going to be a 4-5000 tonne fishery again."
But recreational umbrella group Tasfish wants the status quo to continue, as does Nelson fishing club Dawnbreakers and the Nelson Mail's outdoors correspondent Zane Mirfin, a professional fishing guide.
Dawnbreakers' immediate past president Troy Dando said the snapper fishery had improved over the past few years.
But he asked how much of that was due to the release of juvenile fish by Crop and Food in 2005-06 and how much to favourable climatic conditions.
Not enough was known to increase the total allowable catch yet, and trawling for snapper in Tasman Bay should be replaced by long-lining, which produced top-quality fish while allowing juveniles to be released, Mr Dando said.
He also opposed MPI's option of increasing the recreational daily catch limit of snapper in the
Marlborough Sounds from three to five fish. "The fishery has taken quite a hit and you're not catching the fish you used to in there. It's crazy to increase the recreational catch in that area."
Tasfish, which represents more than 1000 members through affiliated fishing and boating clubs and ratepayer groups, also wants the three-fish Sounds limit to remain.
Its submission from president Martyn Barlow says the five-fish option "shows how little respect MPI managers from outside the region have for local area management".
Tasfish says no TAC increase should be contemplated without new scientific information, the last of which was reported in 2009, when the MPI's advice said there was "no accepted index of abundance" and a high risk of failing to meet statutory sustainability options if the TAC was increased.
Mr Mirfin said he didn't think the Government understood the value of the recreational fishery.
"I know they're desperate to earn some export income, but recreational rights and interests have to be looked after.
"Studies done overseas have shown that a recreationally caught fish is worth five to 10 times a commercially caught fish."
The snapper fishery was "just building" and the TAC should be left as it is, Mr Mirfin said.
"Fishing is a valuable industry for Nelson and I'm not saying take anything away from them, but I reckon there'll be a real rebellion if they try to take more snapper off us."
MPI has also put up the option of doubling the Challenger area kingfish TAC from 21 to 41 tonnes, including raising the commercial catch from seven to 15 tonnes and recreational from 10 to 20 tonnes.
The two groups also differ on that.
Tasfish and Dawnbreakers support keeping the TAC at 21 tonnes and reducing the daily recreational catch, currently three fish more than 75 centimetres.
An MPI spokeswoman said the minister would make decisions ahead of the new fishing year, which begins on October 1.
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