Recreational Fishers in the Gulf

  PICTURED: Recreational Fishers in the Gulf  

Opinion – NZ Sports Fishing Council should not reject Govt action plan

By . Image credit Shaun Lee.

In the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s agenda for August 23 (Page 177) the New Zealand Sports Fishing Council have rejected the Government’s response to Sea Change. This is a shame because although the plan is weak, short on detail and very late, it’s still the best proposal we have for slowing the decline of the Gulf.

Here are the points they make with some commentary from me. I have written them up for my own understanding. TL;DR The measurable cuts to recreational fishing were not matched by measurable cuts to commercial fishing. This is true but the lack of detail in the plan should be an opportunity for NZSFC to work with Government on scaling back commercial impacts through the development of the fisheries plan and defining the bottom impact fishing areas.

“The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council (NZSFC) rejects the Government’s Revitalising the Gulf proposal on the basis that it does not go far enough.”

‘Not going far enough’ is a poor reason to not to improve something.

“The vision and purpose of the Sea Change plan has been lost. A series of State of the Gulf reports chronicles a steady loss of abundance and diversity, and describes an emerging crisis that threatens the very functionality of the marine ecosystem within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.”

Agreed, the reports also show Marine Protection Areas (MPAs) are the best proven solution to minimising the impact of sports fishing.

“The Revitalising the Gulf plan is a compromised and biased proposal, an insult to all who gave so freely of their time over the years to contribute to a comprehensive plan.”

I understand how outraged they are but this is not a helpful or constructive statement.

“One of the key aspects agreed by the Sea Change contributors was that the plan was not to be cherry picked. The Revitalising the Gulf proposal does just that, thus destroying any good faith, goodwill achieved at the collaborative, negotiated and consensus driven Stakeholder Working Group process. A process that enjoyed widespread trust and support.”

I agree that the compromises made were not honoured. The very first principle is: “The Plan is developed as an integrated package to be implemented as a “whole”. Those implementing the Plan should not pick and choose between the proposed actions.” The plan was ‘non-statutory’ meaning not required or meaningful in law. This made it toothless, NZSFC’s rejection of the Government’s response is a significant failure. The Ministers decided that some commercial compromises were too high. The analysis of this is suspiciously missing from the Ministerial Advisory Committee report. The analysis needs to be better represented in future marine spatial planing processes.

“The only major aspects that made it through the officials’ vetting process is a series of ‘high protection’ areas (HPAs) lacking any ancillary management measures that would give them a chance of success. The Government would be wise to do nothing if that response is all that can be managed.”

The ancillary measures are SPAs (Seafloor Protection Areas) and a Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Management Plan (HGFMP) they know this, so it’s a weird thing to say. The proposed HPAs have been analysed and they are big enough to allow for lots of recreational fishing on the borders. The only threat to the success of the HPAs is customary take which DOC is working to define.

“This entire exercise confirms that Government agencies are unable to work in concert for the benefit of the HGMP.“

Not really, it would be more accurate to say that Fisheries NZ are a much stronger department with more staff and money, Fisheries NZ are “captured by industry”David Parker 2016.

“The tension between fisheries and conservation holds the Hauraki Gulf to ransom.“

I don’t understand what the ransom is, but a network of Marine Protected Areas will increase abundance due to spillover. “Thirty six 30cm Tamureproduce the same amount of eggs as one 70cm Tamure.” – Auckland University Research.

“Fisheries giving up some areas but not any catch, which simply exacerbates the depletion and habitat loss in the remainder of the Marine Park.“

I disagree, yes the HPAs will shift effort but they will increase abundance due to spill-over. The concerns around cuts to catch are valid but it would be more constructive to ask for a lower the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the HGFMP. Note that the HGFMP design should be ecosystems based, I would be interested in a critique of the HGFMP from an ecosystems perspective. Auckland University is well placed to do this but I imagine they will need a lot more detail that what has been published in the draft plan (page 107 of Revitalising the Gulf).

“The Revitalising the Gulf plan is not about restoring the historic mauri of the HGMP or addressing future climate change.“

I agree that it’s irresponsible for govt to exclude climate change from the HGFMP.

“It is about clinging to fishing practices long known to destroy habitat while maintaining catches at historic levels, the same levels that have bought us to this point of depletion and degradation.“

Here NZSFC are talking about commercial bottom impact fishing (trawling and dredging). Sea Change sought to phase out these destructive practices. They need to stop for the health of the Gulf to recover.

“Large public investments were made in crafting a spatial plan that would reverse the decades-long trend of biodiversity loss. This investment has been squandered.“

I think the plan should have been more science led. The weak decisions around commercial bottom impact fishing have dramatically lowered the impact of the plan. It’s frustrating that Government has not announced the bottom impact fishing areas so we can quantify how much has been ‘squandered’.

“Sadly, the Government’s proposal is long on rhetoric, short on action and even shorter on logic. If Revitalising the Gulf proceeds, the HGMP will remain gridlocked with its governance via three Acts of Parliament and no effective management.“

I think they just mean they want the fish that are currently going to commercial fisheries. I partially agree, each fish has more value when killed by a recreational fisher but it also cost more to catch both in terms of environmental impact (carbon emissions, resources mined for fancy boats, oil spilt, fish injured, etc) as well as cash spent.

“The Revitalising the Gulf plan is contrary to the clearly defined purposes of the HGMP Act, including the need to sustaining in perpetuity the life-supporting capacity of all the natural systems in the Gulf.“

It would be more useful to say ‘Commercial fishing is contrary to HGMP Act purposes’. This is true, in 2015 National floated the idea of turning it into a recreational fishing park as an election bribe but then dropped the idea. Probably because lots of people, like the Hauraki Gulf Forum wanted the ecosystem to be valued above fishing. “The recreational fishing park is flawed because it’s being presented as a marine protected area when it’s not. Recreational fishing pressure is intense and, unchecked, has a major impact on environmental health.” – Mayor John Tregidga, Chair, Hauraki Gulf Forum 2016.

It would be more useful if the HGMP Act had a statement like ‘Te Mana o te Wai’ that puts ecosystems first. Words like ‘sustain’ and ‘maintain’ are not useful for those seeking to increase abundance because fish populations can be legally managed at incredibly low levels.

“The Revitalising the Gulf plan is a win for industrial fishing interests and a loss for the people of the Hauraki Gulf and the marine environment.“

I agree that the continuation of industrial bottom impact fishing is a big win for industry, I would love to know how they pulled that off. The government needs to be more transparent about the process and include recreational and environmental views in the discussions around bottom impact fishing areas and the development of the HGFMP. FNZ officers have told me this will not happen for dredging.

“Reasons for rejecting. Our reasons for rejecting the Revitalising the Gulf plan include but are not limited to the following:“

I agree with many of these points but I would not reject a plan that started eight years ago and won’t be acted for another three years. I would just start a new plan to address the remaining issues. Waikato Regional Council has started a planning process that could address their concerns.

“Failure to fulfil the purposes of the HGMP Act“

Yes, commercial uses are not mentioned.

“Failure to remove bottom trawling and Danish seining. Failure to acknowledge the need to limit the effects of climate change by reducing the carbon emissions attributed to trawling and dredging in the Gulf.“

Agreed and hot topic, Govt asleep at the wheel here.

“Failure to remove scallop dredging.”


“Failure to remove purse seining.“

Agreed, the review of purse seining impacts is also missing, while the catch has dramatically increased.

“Failure to create a separate Fisheries Management Area (FMA) for the Hauraki Gulf so precautionary catch limits can be applied and adjusted in a reasonable and responsible timeframe.“

Officials need to better explain how they can operate a HGFMP with no FMA. It will be an area-based plan authorised under section 11A of the Fisheries Act 1996.

“No attempt to address the need for improved management, of recreational fishing in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.“

Yes a science led MPA network would really help here, along with much lower Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and a raft of other changes suggested by NZSFC and environmental groups that have been ignored by FNZ for decades. As it stands the HGFMP is very business as usual, I would love to see NZSFC and other groups rewrite it.

“Failure to take a holistic approach to marine protection, with no integrated, meaningful fisheries management changes alongside the HPAs.“

Not a very specific request, I assume it’s the Rescue Fish Policy.

“Failure to acknowledge the tension that will arise if Maori customary food gathering is permitted in ‘high protection areas’ while public fishing is prohibited.“

I agree this is problematic, along with conflict between customary take and no-harm divers and snorkelers in HPAs.

“The short sighted ‘protection at all costs’ bias that sees the far-sighted Special Management Area (SMA) concept discarded. The economy of such high value, low extraction fishing activity that currently occurs at the Mokohinau and Alderman Islands, and that would be permitted under the SMA concept, has been dismissed by officials ‘because it focuses on the management of use’.“

I don’t understand this as the plan states the Government “will explore the Sea Change Plan’s Special Management Area (SMA) tool”.

“There is no provision for an Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Revitalising the Gulf plan.“

EIAs are expensive, they did rough costs of the short term losses for the HPAs. They can’t do an EIA when they haven’t even decided where they might reduce some commercial fishing yet. A better criticism would be on the lack of plan in the plan.

“There is no provision for an assessment of the social and cultural impacts of the Revitalising the Gulf plan.“

This is a nice idea, I don’t know what it would look like, but could be included in the State of the Gulf reporting.

“Failure to consider the effects of fishing on the marine ecosystem – While the Gulf snapper stock may be slowly rebuilding, the prospects are not good for crayfish, paua, scallops, mussels, tarakihi, John dory, gurnard, kahawai, trevally, porae and all the ‘red fish’ that have attracted so much attention recently.“

Yes, these should be addressed in the HGFMP.