In November, the Guardians travelled to Wellington to deliver their recommendations to Hon. David Parker, the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, regarding changes to the amateur fishing regulations in the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area.
These recommendations culminated from more than two years of engagement with amateur recreational fishers, operators of Amateur Charter Vessels and the four southern Papatipu Rūnaka, spurred by increasing community concern about the state of key fish stocks. Over this time, the Guardians met with focus groups, presented information to the Mahinga Kai Hi Ika Komiti, conducted a survey, analysed data sets held by the Ministry of Fisheries, and had wide-ranging discussions with members of the community at boat shows and because of a campaign in The Fishing Paper and Hunting News. The Guardians also have extensive first-hand knowledge of the issues and status of fisheries through their own experience fishing in the FMA.
It has become abundantly clear that multiple species targeted by recreational fishers, including blue cod, hapuku, pāua and scallops, are considerably depleted in the internal waters of the fiords. There is clear evidence of increasing fishing pressure over time and forecasts of that trend continuing. And clear evidence that an unintended consequence of the fishing regulations introduced in 2005 has been a concentration of fishing pressure in the entrances of many fiords, seaward of the habitat lines. There are clear signs that the current fishing pressure occurring inside the fiords is unsustainable, and many key fish stocks require rebuilding.
The Guardians vision is central to all that we do. The quality of Fiordland’s marine environment and fisheries, including the wider fishery experience, be maintained or improved for future generations to use and enjoy. Feedback from the community is a strong sentiment that most want their mokopuna to experience the abundant fisheries they have been so fortunate to enjoy in their lifetimes. The Guardians firmly believe that considerable changes are required to recreational fishing regulations to ensure this vision is realised and that the regulatory change required will be enduring for decades to come.
The Guardians have advised the Minister that to be most likely of success, a multi-faceted approach is required. The concept of Fishing for a Feed is one the Guardians have long embraced, and we wish to align the recreational bag limits with this concept in mind. We have also emphasised the critical need for robust data that will enable us to better detect and respond to future changes in the fisheries. Another critical component is encouraging the highest amount of fishing pressure in the most productive parts of the FMA. And finally, we have recommended changes to the way that fishing charter vessels are managed in fisheries legislation to improve data collection and reduce the potential contribution of these platforms to localised and serial depletion of fish stocks.
A comprehensive overview of what the Guardians are proposing can be viewed here.