by Steffan Browning
Current fisheries discussion documents open for submission include how the snapper fishery for east Northland and the Hauraki Gulf–Bay of Plenty is to be divided among customary, recreational and commercial fishers.
While usefully leaving customary take at its current levels, the remaining catch allowance has been suggested to be reduced for recreational fishers, at a greater rate than commercial fishers. This is despite commercial fishers potentially having the larger sustainability impact through unsustainable trawl fishing methods, including some during the important spawning season.
The Government must protect recreational fishers’ interests in snapper, ahead of habitat damaging commercial trawlers. The Government must take a holistic approach to rebuilding the snapper fishery, get more accurate information, and address damage to the snapper habitat, rather than making fishers providing for their families shoulder most of the burden.
The Government’s own review management document points out the damage by commercial trawlers to the sea floor, and acknowledges the low level of observer coverage on the inshore fishery.
Commercial trawling is restricted in a variety of ways over various inshore parts of the fishery but this needs to go much further, as does Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) work with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to ensure robust sediment controls from forestry and farming activities. The government has shelved the National Environment Standard (NES)-Plantation Forestry until the Resource Management Act reforms are done. This is extremely unlikely to see sediments from forestry reduced anytime soon. An excellent Government report explains the land based effects (such as sediments) on fisheries.
Increased restrictions on commercial trawlers and reducing sedimentation of juvenile snapper habitats by forestry and farming land disturbance, will help recreate an abundant and sustainable fishery for all.