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NZSFC Feedback Draft to NZ Initative

New Zealand Sport Fishing Council feedback to the NZ Initiative – The Future Catch
report – DRAFT
24 October 2017
The New Zealand Initiative is promoting radical change to the way recreational fisheries
are managed. A series of recommendations are included in a draft report called The
Future Catch, authored by Randall Bess. In September 2017 Bess presented the report to
the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council AGM and he requested feedback. This is a brief
analysis of the report’s proposals and draft feedback from the NZSFC to the NZ Initiative.
The Proposal
1. That a peak body, modeled on Recfishwest (West Australia), be established to
represent all New Zealand marine recreational fishers.
2. That funding be provided from government.
3. That catch limits for recreational fishers be set as a proportion of the Total
Allowable Catch (TAC).
The Problem Statement
The problems identified as driving the need for reform are characterised as:
1. An increasing population will lead to ever increasing recreational harvest.
2. Recreational harvest estimates are infrequent and uncertain, and better ways of
measuring catch are required.
3. There is no effective, unified recreational voice at the decision-making table.
4. There is no peak body with a single voice and demonstrating leadership.
Finer scale analysis – DRAFT
1. An increasing population will lead to ever increasing recreational harvest.
There is no evidence of this. The MPI survey data describes the opposite scenario, as
evidenced by:
a. Regardless of population increase, the catches of many popular species have
declined.
b. Increasing population is not adding fishing mortality to inshore stocks.
Despite a lack of evidence that recreational catches are increasing, a controversial
proposal is made to draw recreational fishing into the QMS through proportional allocation.
Commercial interests have been lobbying for proportional allocation for decades because
it provides clear benefits for ITQ shareholders through:
a. Locking the public into a defined proportion of the TAC;
b. Removing the Ministerial discretion that was confirmed during the Kahawai Legal
Challenge; and
c. Effectively granting ITQ shareholders a share of the TAC, not just a share of the
TACC, this is privatisation of a public resource. It puts commercial interests at a
distinct advantage in a willing buyer/seller trading regime.
Proportional allocation does not solve any problem, indeed it creates many new ones. It is
essential that the Minister decides the allocation of fisheries yields as he or she is the only
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voice that has statutory responsibilities for acting in the national Interest. It is entirely
appropriate that allocations for cultural, recreational, tourism, conservation and commercial
users are balanced against the national interest, and always deliver our kaitiakitanga
[guardianship] obligations to those who will follow.
2. Recreational harvest estimates are infrequent and uncertain, and better ways of
measuring catch are required.
This is a convenient point of attack. The truth is there is a wealth of data on recreational
catch and the standard is high. Nowhere in New Zealand are management decisions
placed at risk by an unknown recreational catch. Moreover, the Minister has an obligation
to act in a precautionary manner if the available information is incomplete, unreliable or
uncertain.
3. There is no effective, unified recreational voice at the decision-making table.
There is a strong recreational voice at the table. The problem is it has been ignored. MPI
have actively sought to manage the recreational voice through their ‘Recreational
Initiative’. This team is trying to act as the gateway to the decision-making table, offering
such tidbits as local solutions for local problems and so-called expert groups. The
Recreational Initiative team has actively sought to undermine the NZSFC and its
relationships with other stakeholder groups, which simply reduces the credibility of both
the team and MPI.
The NZSFC has been building close relationships with a range of organisations over the
past two decades – ‘trusted source’ is a hard earned and treasured status. Some of those
relationships and supporters are featured in the latest Fisheries Management Annual
Report here. The real issue is not the lack of a unified voice as healthy debate and
different perspectives can contribute to balanced decisions based on the quality of the
submissions made. The refusal by MPI to listen and give respect to some voices that have
highlighted MPI’s shortcomings is unacceptable. There is no need nor appetite for a single
government controlled recreational voice.
4. There is no peak body with a single voice and demonstrating leadership.
The NZSFC does not seek to be a ‘peak body’. It does provide leadership through its
comprehensive engagement and participation in all relevant fisheries management forums,
its comprehensive submissions, it’s efforts to align with other organisations and the
establishment of LegaSea to reach out to the wider public. The NZSFC is the most
organised representative recreational fishing organisation in the country.
Funding from taxpayers
Any organisation funded by the government will have limited ability to change government
policies. If a peak body is prevented from lobbying for the interests of recreational marine
fishers then who will counter the industrial fishing lobby? The voice of recreational fishers
needs to be heard and given respect, not constrained or weakened by those who hold the
purse strings.
Recfishwest has been promoted as a model that could be replicated in NZ. The bag limits
are tiny, the regulations voluminous, and participation in licensed fisheries is expensive.
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MPI and some politicians have already discounted licensing of recreational fishers in NZ.
Any developments of this nature in New Zealand would attract major opposition.
Summary
There is an appetite amongst a small but vocal group of New Zealanders who have
advocated a Recfishwest model in NZ for 17 years. This same small group has risen
behind the NZ Initiative project to offer their vocal support. There is nothing new in any of
that.
The NZ Initiative has prosecuted a well-worn path used by the author in his previous
employment with the Environmental Defense Fund of the USA. That strategy is to gather
fringe support for their privatisation agenda, fund and train this small group and provide
access to legislators. This small group of inside players will press for control of the
fisheries reform conversation, highlighting the need for change and offering their limited
support in exchange for a seat at the table, a seat they have not been able to earn on their
own.
New Zealand doesn’t need or want this kind of external interference that seeks to cut
across our democratic institutions.