New minister signals brighter future for all

New Zealand Fishing News, New Zealand 01 Dec 2017

LegaSea welcomes the new government’s decision to appoint Stuart Nash as Minister of Fisheries, the first step in breaking apart the monolith that is the Ministry for Primary Industries.

All the signals so far point to: a fresh approach to fisheries management; more meaningful engagement; and potentially the inclusion of recreational interests in future decision-making processes. Ideally, these changes mean more fish in the water and a fair go for future generations.

Stuart Nash is MP for Napier, so he is familiar with the effects of excessive bottom trawling. He has seen how the depletion of inshore waters deprives local people access to a reasonable fish stock.

Stuart has also witnessed first-hand the impacts felt by his community due to the alleged illegal behaviour of commercialfishing operators.

His hours invested in talking with local fishing groups trying to find a solution will put him in good stead for his next task, which is a biggie. As Minister, he now has a statutory duty to restore our fisheries to abundant levels in order to provide for the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of all New Zealanders, including non-commercial recreational and customary fishers.

Restoring the public’s faith in the way our fisheries are managed will be another challenge. For many years we have been told that the Quota Management System is ‘world leading’. This line has been spun in a multitude of countries, yet the people at home in Aotearoa have known this to be a lie for a long time. A recent investigation includes this quote from Dave Turner, the Director of Fisheries Management at the time, “discarding is a systemic failure of the current system and something we have not been able to get on top of from day 1 of the QMS. Fisheries Management can’t quantify the tonnages involved, but we suspect they are significant to the point that they are impacting on stocks”.

A system that enables officials to keep these essential truths away from the minister is clearly not a worldwide winner. Nor is the collapse of CRA 2, the northeastern crayfish stock, after years of mismanagement. Change is needed.

A winning strategy starts with identifying the underlying problems with the current system, agreeing on a vision to restore abundance to New Zealand’s waters, and then working out an effective plan so everyone is striving to achieve success.

Success will be evidenced by implementation of a cohesive strategy and a more responsive management regime that delivers abundant fisheries. We need more abundance in the places we traditionally fish and a more productive marine environment.

Achieving success will take time. However, we have to start somewhere, and LegaSea is prepared to contribute its expertise if it means a brighter fishing future for us all.

Seagrass hides hidden treasures For a long time we suspected that seagrass meadows were important to the life-cycle offish – we just didn’t know how significant. A large-scale survey across New Zealand found regional differences in the species and numbers of juvenile fish hiding in amongst the seagrass beds. Further research will undoubtedly reveal more secrets over time. What is clear from a fishing or boating perspective, is wherever you fish or anchor this summer, please be aware of the impact your activity is having on the seafloor, the seagrass in particular.

Seagrass meadows are considered by international scientists to be one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, ranked ahead of coral reefs. Research carried out by NIWA and published by the ministry, reveals sub-tidal seagrass meadows in northern New Zealand are important juvenile fish nurseries, particularly for snapper and trevally. This nursery value changes, depending on the depth and size of the seagrass bed, the coastline, and latitude. The presence of seagrass does not always equate to higher abundance of juvenile fish or a rich mix of species, when compared to local bare or sand habitats.

Rapid large-scale losses of seagrass is a worldwide problem.

Biological, environmental and extreme weather events have been identified as causing significant declines, especially in shallower waters. New Zealand’s seagrasses have proven to be acutely responsive to environmental changes, especially those altering water clarity. That clarity is affected by sedimentation, chemicals and rubbish from city streets, and nutrient run-off from rural land.

Given this, it is no surprise that the productivity of our harbours and estuarine environments has decreased overtime, ultimately affecting the abundance and diversity of fish.

Making small changes to the way we live can have a positive impact on our marine environment if enough of us make the effort.

LegaSea encourages you to think about changes you can make.

It can be as simple as refusing single-use plastics and using recyclable shopping bags instead, or not pouring chemicals or unused paint down the drain. In fishing terms, it could simply be using a reusable netted bag for your berley instead of a plastic bag, or drift fishing instead of anchoring. (The replacement net bags used for berley pots can be used without the pot.) There is a raft of changes we can make if we stop to think for a while.

LegaSea will be doing more research and developing new messages about habitat protection in our FishCare guide. Please go online to www.fishcare.org.nz to find out more. C

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