Call for industry to uphold Māori views on sustainable fishing practices

5:42 pm on 17 June 2021

A Māori fisheries leader says a High Court ruling on tarakihi limits should force a rethink on current practices.

Tarakihi at Pak n Save Kilbirnie.

Tarakihi. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The High Court yesterday ruled the fisheries minister had made a legal error by letting the industry draft its own plan to let stocks replenish.

Te Arawa Fisheries chief executive Chris Karamea Insley said the decision suggested there something was "not right".

Te Arawa Fisheries manages the fishing quotas and assets for the Bay of Plenty iwi.

"I think there's a stocktake needed more across the industry," he said, adding that the decision would have an impact on how iwi considered their quota management.

While this ruling was about tarakihi, Karamea Insley said it would also have implications for fish stocks more generally and how they should be managed.

"As Māori, we're always talking about how we care about the sustainability of the fisheries and the sustainability of the moana more broadly. This decision is consistent with our fundamental driver."

In bringing the case, environment group Forest & Bird said tarakihi stocks off the entire eastern coast of the country had been fished down to just 15 percent of its natural population.

One of the respondents in the case was Te Ohu Kaimoana, a trust established to represent iwi fishing rights and interests, but also to support sustainability measures. It had supported the plan approved by the minister.

A Te Ohu Kaimoana spokesperson said the trust would not comment until it had digested the court ruling.

Karamea Insley said it was disappointing the sustainability aspect of Te Ohu Kaimoana appeared to have been overlooked, but he had some sympathy, saying it had a difficult task of straddling multiple interests.

"They've got a foot in both camps, I guess is the point," he said.

"They are there really to be advocating on these bigger issues on behalf of all Māori.

"I would say, however, that Te Ohu Kaimoana have been an absolute ally to our iwi over the last 12 months or so investigating alternative supply options that could create jobs.

"I think this is probably where things have gone awry in the industry over the last few years, it's this conflict between these sustainability drivers and these commercial economic drivers, and too often the economics have outweighed the voice of Māori on these sustainability issues."

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