Changes in the Hauraki Gulf raise challenges and opportunities
On Tuesday, when the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, David Parker, announced the long-announced revitalization of the Hauraki Gulf, it was in response to the “Sea Change” plan prepared four years earlier. happy.
Trawling will be limited to “corridors” in the Gulf, there will be a tailor-made fishing plan and 18 new marine protected areas (MPAs) will triple the coverage to 17.6%.
While saying this is an important first step, members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum still hope that 30 percent of the Gulf will be protected in the future and that all trawling and dredging will be banned altogether.
Commercial scallop operations may continue, but will be limited to areas already dredged, while recreational scallop dredging will be prohibited.
A thriving marine environment is of paramount importance to the commercial seafood industry and we look forward to working with the government on how to implement the changes. In doing so, the true costs and benefits of what is proposed must be rationally assessed and an evidence-based approach must be adopted.
However, the announcement raises some questions, notably around new proposals for different categories of marine protection, including a new “special management area”, which will allow “carefully managed and targeted” recreational fishing. The announcement did not identify these areas, nor how they will be managed and monitored.
In national panel surveys conducted by NIWA, it is revealed that recreational fishers harvest nearly three times as many snappers from the interior of the Gulf than commercial fishers (2,068 tonnes to 1,096 tonnes).
Given the importance of the area to recreational fishing, there are many welcome changes being made for the recreational fishing industry, which is putting enormous pressure on the Gulf. But if the Gulf is truly a jewel in our maritime crown and such an important area for recreational fishing, why is there such reluctance to take relatively simple but important measures like reporting recreational catches?
The industry is relieved that its continued calls for a faster reaction to lower bag limits are being considered, changing decision-making from Cabinet approval to Gazette notice. We welcome more controls on the reporting of chartered vessels, presumably from a paper-based system to an electronic reporting system, and welcome the proposal, although we have little confidence in its eventual implementation, of a register of pleasure craft.
This is not an “us against them” search during reconnaissance. There is a real desire to see some control over the thousands of ships that use the Gulf as a playground. As most of the catches in the interior of the Gulf are recreational, the government’s desire to tackle this problem and getting a more accurate picture of the captures is to be applauded.
It is surprising to the general public and recreational fishermen that the restrictions already placed on commercial fishing in the Gulf are significant. There are already trawl bans, Danish seine bans, net bans and seasonal bans.