Snapper changes

Stuff reports:

Recreational fishers will now be able to catch seven snapper a day, after the Government abandoned plans to slash the quota from nine to three.

But the fishers will now have to catch bigger fish – and they are not happy.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said this afternoon the limit reduction was needed because recreational fishers in the upper North Island’s east coast had been catching well above the set allowance in recent years.

The announcement follows ministry consultation on how to manage and rebuild New Zealand’s northern snapper population, which has “collapsed” alarmingly in recent years.

The process sparked outrage among recreational fishers due to a plan to cut the daily catch to three.

Fishers will now be allowed to catch seven snapper a day, measuring 30 centimetres long – up from 27cm.

The actual quota for recreational fishers has increased by 500 tonnes. However this is still less than the levels being fished, and hence the restrictions.

The changes relate to what is called the Snapper 1 Fishery area, which runs from the top of eastern Northland to the Bay of Plenty.

The fishery is one of the most heavily used by recreational anglers in New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries said it was those fishers who were pushing the number of snapper into danger.

Since 1997 recreational fishers in the area had been allowed to take 2550 tonnes a year. But on average for the last five years the recreational catch has been estimated at 3365 tonnes a year.

Recreational fishers believe they have been unfairly landed with the responsibility of rebuilding the snapper stock. Since 1985 they have had four cuts to their bag limits and size. Commercial limits have remained largely unchanged since 1986.

As I understand it, as more and more people fish, the bag limit per fisher has decreased – but not the overall quota.

This has been a politically potent issue. It will be interesting to see what level of backlash there is, if any, with the final decision. Will any other political party campaign on increasing the bag limit or reducing the minimum size?

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