The Green Party has obtained a written commitment from the Minister of Fisheries today that catch limits for the kahawai fishery will be reviewed over the next year. He has further committed to substantial funding for collection of data on the state of the fishery and the size of the recreational catch.
Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said that Minister David Benson-Pope has undertaken to consider exclusion areas for purse seine fishing along with revised catch limits, if the data supported it.
"The Green Party considered very carefully whether to support the Baldock amendment to the Fisheries No 3 Bill which would have cancelled all catch limits but left the kahawai in the Quota Management System," said Ms Fitzsimons.
"We have a strong policy commitment that kahawai should be managed primarily as a recreational fishery, with commercial quota only to cover unavoidable by-catch.
"Our judgement is that the Baldock amendment, while well intentioned, would not have achieved this.
"For one thing, it would not have passed, with both Labour and Act voting against it, whatever the Greens and other parties did. Further, it would have created a year of chaos in the fishery with no catch limits at all, and no promise that they would have been set any differently the next year."
Ms Fitzsimons said that the fundamental problem is that commercial fish stocks are managed at very low levels, down to 20 per cent of their original abundance. This is inappropriate for a recreational fishery (as well as for the marine ecosystem generally) where the methods used just can't catch a fish often enough.
"A hand line in a dinghy can't compete with a giant purse seine net," she said.
"However, the Fisheries Act requires the most quota to be issued to the fishers who were catching the most fish in 1990-92. That is the purse seiners.
"The Minister has no choice in how he allocates the available commercial quota, but he does have the option of setting a lower total catch limit and of setting exclusion areas where purse seine boats can't go. The Greens believe that is necessary now, but better information is needed for the Minister to do it legally.
"We are disappointed that the total catch for kahawai has been set too high to protect the abundance of the 'people's fish' for recreational fishers. We will work with the Minister as he has invited us to do, to ensure a better outcome for the 2005/6 fishing year," said Ms Fitzsimons.