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Measures to protect blue cod fishery

Measures to protect blue cod fishery

Recreational bag limits for blue cod at the top of the South Island are being reduced in an effort to prevent further depletion of the fishery.

Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson said the latest information indicated that blue cod populations in the Marlborough Sounds had halved between 1995-96 and 2001, mainly due to heavy pressure from recreational fishing.

The Minister has decided to set the recreational fishing daily bag limit for blue cod in the waters at the top of the South Island at three and the minimum size limit at 30 cm. The limits will apply from 1 October 2003.

The top of the South Island blue cod fishery will be managed as a single recreational management area. Currently it is split in two. Daily bag limits for blue cod are six in the Marlborough Sounds area and 10 in Golden and Tasman Bays. Minimum size are 28 cm in the Sounds and 33cm in Golden and Tasman Bays.

Mr Hodgson asked recreational fishers to help rebuild the blue cod fishery by using large, barbless hooks (size 6 and over) when targeting blue cod. Research indicated that using such hooks reduced the likelihood of catching small fish and lowered the incidence of gut hooking.

"I recognise that not all recreational fishers will support these changes, but if they are not made the blue cod fishery will continue to decline," Mr Hodgson said. "Fishers must act now to conserve this important inshore fishery."

"Many good ideas were put forward in submissions on the future management of the blue cod fishery and discussions will continue with stakeholders on an integrated management approach for the Marlborough Sounds. I encourage people and organisations with an interest in the fishery to remain engaged with the process." In two months of public consultation on options for reducing blue cod catches to a sustainable level a large number of submissions were received by the Ministry of Fisheries, most supporting a substantial reduction in the recreational catch.

Mr Hodgson said he had carefully considered submissions that also supported a reduction in the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC), but had not made a change, since there was no evidence to suggest commercial fishing was having a significant impact on the decline of blue cod.

"The commercial fishery is in a separate area from the recreational fishery, away from the worst hit areas, so a reduction in the commercial catch limit would not target the areas of concern," Mr Hodgson said. "I welcome a proposal from the fishing industry to implement a 'catch spread regime' aimed at preventing an expansion of commercial fishing effort for blue cod in sensitive areas and at distributing commercial fishing throughout Golden and Tasman Bays and the West Coast."

The Total Allowable Catch for blue cod at the top of the South Island will be set at 343 tonnes, incorporating an allowance of 177 tonnes for recreational interests, 27 tonnes for customary interests, and 69 tonnes for other sources of mortality. The TACC will be maintained at 70 tonnes.

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