Fishermen hook into 'stupid' rule
Fishermen hook into 'stupid' ruleROB MAETZIG
Lives may be put at risk by what fishermen call the Government's "stupid" and costly plan to put observers on all commercial fishing boats gill-netting off Taranaki.
The fishermen say the requirement to have observers on the boats may put crew at risk because the vessels don't have the necessary safety and lifesaving equipment for more people.
New regulations to be introduced on July 28 will ban all set-netting along the entire Taranaki coastline up to two nautical miles 93.7 kilometres) out to sea.
And commercial operators laying their gill nets between two nautical miles and seven nautical miles out into the Tasman will be required to have an official taxpayer-funded observer on board.
These regulations are being introduced to help protect the rare Maui's dolphin, which conservation officials say have the potential to be present in Taranaki waters – even though nobody has actually seen one for 25 years.
Putting observers on Taranaki's commercial fishing boats will cost the taxpayer up to $314,000 a year, and their jobs will be to report the start and end positions of the set nets, and to report any dolphin sightings to the Conservation Department.
Taranaki commercial fishing spokesman Keith Mawson said all of Taranaki's fishing boats are surveyed for three or four crew members.
"That's how many are needed for their normal commercial fishing operations," he said.
"There are also safety requirements, all related to the amount of lifesaving equipment on board. It would cost thousands to upgrade it to accommodate one more person – so if the the boat operators are heading out overnight they will probably have to reduce their crew numbers."
The fishermen say reduced crew numbers would make work conditions dangerously difficult as they haul in their nets laden with heavy fish such as blue warehou and rig.
Boat owner Mike McGregor said he may be only "a dumb-arsed fisherman", but he can't figure out why the observers are needed.
"Our boats have all got electronic position monitors on board, so why can't we read them and advise where our nets are. And why can't we report any dolphin sightings ourselves? It's just stupid."
Another boat owner, Robert Ansley, said he will do what he's told and carry an observer, but it will make his fishing operation a lot more difficult.
"And a major reason will be because we'll be required to fish a lot further out to sea. It's going to be tough.
"But we'll take an observer and hopefully prove to the authorities that you just don't see Maui's dolphins off Taranaki. But I suspect that even if we do prove this, we'll be dreaming if we can change the Government's mind about the set-net ban further inshore."
The Government's interim set-net measures to protect Maui's dolphins will: Prohibit the use of commercial set nets between 2nm and 7nm without an observer on board.
The observers will: Report start and end position of nets; Report dolphin sightings to DOC, thus allowing DOC to obtain biopsy information for such sightings.
Commercial fishermen will be asked to voluntarily assist DOC in obtaining this biopsy information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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