21 Sep 2020

Fishers in two minds over Green Party fishing policy

10:46 am on 21 September 2020

Commercial and recreational fishers are welcoming some aspects of the Green Party marine policy, but say care must be taken and more data is needed on fishery stocks.

View with a shallow depth of field of the deck of a fishing vessel: boxes with a fresh fish yield of tuna, the yellow rope and simple drag anchor, ocean water with bokeh overboard

Photo: 123RF

The Greens announced their 'Thriving Oceans Plan' at Ōrākei / Bastion Point yesterday, including expanding marine protection areas and sanctuaries to 30 percent of New Zealand's oceans by 2030, and putting a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining.

They also want a review of the quota management system, a $50m fund to help fishers transition to sustainable practices, and faster rollout of cameras on fishing boats.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson announces the party's policy at Bastion Point.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was joined by conservation spokesperson Eugenie Sage, co-leader James Shaw, and MPs Golriz Ghahraman and Chloe Swarbrick to announce the policy yesterday, one of six flagship policies for the party this election. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

NZ Fishing Industry Guild executive secretary Ian Mathieson said marine protected areas were important and New Zealand could certainly do with more, but 30 percent was "a large amount of ocean" and there would be an impact on local communities.

"Especially if you're talking about New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, that would be massive on the global scale ... there would need to be a lot of consultation before that could take place," he said.

"If they're looking at closing certain fisheries down or making certain fishing practices not legal, the impact on the industry and livelihoods of communities could be really significant.

"You've got to look closely at what it is and it's got to be based on science and observation and it can't be based on ideology."

He said he was not against the concept but it would have to be based on consultation.

"You do very much need to understand how it's impacting local communities and that's both from a recreational fishing, a customary Māori perspective and a commercial sector."

He was supportive of a review of quota management, saying many parts were no longer fit for modern times, but said cameras on fishing boats may not be worth the cost - particularly with the ongoing costs required for reviewing and collating the data.

"Depends where they want to spend the money ... cameras on fishing vessels are highly expensive.

Mathieson also said more accurate data was needed on fish stocks.

"They view a fish stock based on its original biomass and they make a baseline judgement ... it's a lot easier to manage them I guess scientifically and accurately if the biomass is kept at a more comfortable level.

"I don't think it's up to date enough ... I don't think you can make any decisions until you've got that data firmly nailed down and at the moment it's not."

Keith Ingram of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council said it was an old policy the Greens has regurgitated, but it did have its good points.

Part of the policy aims to begin on marine protection areas by spending $10m on restoring shellfish beds in Hauraki Gulf, and zone it for active protection and management of marine life by urgently phasing out practices such as bottom trawling, dredging and Danish seining.

Ingram supported protecting the Gulf.

"It has to be questioned whether - is this still appropriate for the Hauraki Gulf and particularly for the Hauraki Gulf maritime park ... where we have a number of endemic species, particularly the Brodie's whales."

However, he said the Greens were not being accurate about the amount of ocean already being protected - saying some were protected by default because of undersea cables, and others included things like protections for Māui dolphins.

"If you were to add all those areas up I think you'd be quite surprised at the amount of marine protection we have either by intention or by default in our 200-mile zone," he said.

He also supported a review of quota management, but again criticised plans for cameras on boats saying they would not do everything the party hoped they would.

"The cameras are designed to shine on the decks to make sure that the commercial industry is not throwing over high grading or throwing away good quota when they shouldn't be.

"To improve fishing behaviour we need to get rid of the commercial minimum legal size of the 11 fin fish species, so they land everything."

He said that would allow the cameras to identify when the rules were being broken, and New Zealanders would have to accept that smaller fish would be sold - but he was confident of a market for them.

He also said some of the government's moves to protect fishing stocks were simply not enough, and advocated for some fisheries to be shut down entirely to protect stocks.

"The fishery must come first. Close it. We supported closing cray 2 fishery to give the cray 2 fishery a chance to rebuild ... all pots, all divers out of the water. But government because of commercial pressure has taken a soft approach to it."

National party leader Judith Collins said she found it hard to take the party seriously after they did not vote for protection of the Kermadecs.

"I mean they had an opportunity to vote with National on protecting the Kermadecs and they failed to do so ... they gave into Labour and New Zealand First.

National Party Leader Judith Collins delivers a speech during the Virtual National Party 2020 Campaign Launch at Avalon Studios on September 20, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

National leader Judith Collins at the party's virtual campaign launch yesterday. Photo: Pool / Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

"We've made it very clear what we've said about cameras on boats and we've also said we back our recreational fishers as well as our commercial fishers.

"There's plenty for everybody but we also need to protect the environment and protect the stock."

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