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Review of customary fishing rules

Tuesday, 06 April 2004 Media Statement

Review of customary fishing rules

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope today announced a review of the amateur fishing regulations providing for customary fishing.

Most customary fishing is currently done under Regulation 27 of the Fisheries (Amateur Fishing) Regulations 1986, which allow any group identifying itself as tangata whenua of an area to appoint people to authorise the taking of fish for hui or tangi.

"The long term goal is to have all customary fishing covered by the Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations, which have been developed in accordance with the 1992 Maori Fisheries Settlement," Mr Benson-Pope said.

"However until the customary fishing regulations can be implemented throughout New Zealand, most customary fishing will continue to be carried out under Regulation 27. This regulation has been tightened twice – most recently a year ago – but there is evidence of continuing abuse by an irresponsible minority of fishers. The review of Regulation 27 will focus on the rules around the issuing of permits, as investigations indicate this is the main area of abuse.

"The review will be conducted in collaboration with the Minister of Maori Affairs and Associate Minister of Fisheries, Hon Parekura Horomia. We will be endeavouring to work with Maori leaders to address a range of issues relating to the management of customary fishing.

"Customary fishing rights, as provided for under the Fisheries Deed of Settlement 1992, are collective rights held by iwi and hapu. We need to ensure that the obligations associated with these collective rights are clearly specified and that people can be held accountable to them."

Mr Benson-Pope said any changes to Regulation 27 would be consulted on, but given the current level of consensus amongst tangata whenua and the wider community on the need to prevent illegal fishing he did not anticipate a lengthy consultation period.

"I do stress that the majority of those issuing permits under Regulation 27 are doing so responsibly," the minister said. "This review is prompted by the actions of a small number of abusers."

Customary fishing – background information

Customary fishing under Regulation 27 In areas not yet covered by the Customary Fishing Regulations, customary fishing is governed by Regulation 27 of the Amateur Fishing Regulations, which provides for the taking of fish for a hui or tangi.

Within the terms of this regulation, hui and tangi have been interpreted to mean specific traditional gatherings. Once Customary Fishing Regulations cover the whole country, Regulation 27 will cease to be used for any salt-water fisheries, but will continue to be the only mechanism for customary fishing for freshwater fish species covered by the Quota Management System (e.g. eels and lamprey in the North and Chatham Islands).

Major changes to Regulation 27 After lengthy consultation with iwi, major changes were made to Regulation 27, which came into effect on April 30 2003. The changes were made because of concern that some poachers were using Regulation 27 to cover their illegal fishing activities.

The new rules for Regulation 27 mean: customary fishers must obtain a written authorisation before they go fishing and they must have the authorisation with them while they are fishing; written authorisation must be issued by an authorised representative of a marae committee, Maori committee, Runanga or Trust Board that represents the tangata whenua of the area to be fished; fishers must not under any circumstances, sell, exchange or trade any of the fish taken under the authorisation for money or other items; all fishing gear used (e.g. buoy, float) must be marked with the authorisation number; no fishing can take place inside an area notified under the Customary Fishing Regulations; written authorisation must accompany any fish taken.

The authorisation must state: who can take the fish (all harvesters); which species can be taken; maximum number of each species that can be taken (number or greenweight); the area where the fish can be taken from; the place at which the fish must be landed; the dates and times within a 48 hour period on which fishing can occur; the hui or tangi, and the place, where the fish will be used; the signature and name of the person who gave the authorisation to take the fish. the authorising agent may choose to impose further conditions relating to size of the fish to be taken, methods used to take the fish and require the harvester to report actual quantities taken.

Enforcement and penalties Breaking the provisions of Regulation 27 can result in penalties of up to $10,000 and up to $20,000 for some species and quantities. Infringement fees of up to $500 can also apply.

Fishing of a commercial nature, for financial gain or trade, is subject to the provisions of the Fisheries Act, which allows for forfeiture of property and fines of up to $250,000.

More information on customary fishing can be found at: www.fish.govt.nz/customary

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