Commercial crayfish catch limit cuts 'kick to the guts'


Commercial crayfishermen working off the Coromandel Peninsula have had their catch limit slashed, but a recreational advocacy group has labelled the changes insufficient and a "kick to the guts".

From April 1, commercial fishermen will see a 36 tonne decrease - or a 15 per cent reduction - in their total allowable catch of 236 tonnes.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced the changes to the CRA 2 fishery, which extends from the Hauraki Gulf to the Bay of Plenty, last week.

Indicators suggest crayfish numbers have have been in steady decline in the area since 2007. Mr Guy said the changes - which were backed by the industry - would help maintain the fishery's health.

"If the numbers of crayfish don't improve then I will be looking to make further changes," he said.

The cut applies only to the commercial sector, but the reduction has been described as disappointing by recreational angling group LegaSea.

Campaign co-ordinator Adam El-Agez said the decision favoured commercial outcomes, rather than ecological sustainability. "The result of that reduction is really no change to the fishery, and that's a real kick to the guts of recreational fishers that are finding it hard."

Divers in the CRA2 had reported a huge increase in the number of crayfish pots over the past five years, he said.

Mr El-Agez said the CRA2 fishery had "collapsed" and the commercial reduction would only lock in the status quo, rather than rebuild it.

However, Daryl Sykes, executive officer and research programme manager at the New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council, disagreed.

"The fishery over the last five years has not been significantly different to the average performance over the past 40 years."

He said the existing catch was deemed sustainable, but there were economic and biological advantages to be had by increasing stock size.

"If you can improve stock abundance we can buffer ourselves against any future variations in abundance."

The success of the reduction would depend on the restraint of recreational fisherman, who had increased in numbers, he said.