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Benson-Pope: Speech to NZ Rec. Fishing Council AGM

Speech Notes

Speech to the 2005 NZ Recreational Fishing Council AGM and Conference

Friday 8 July 2005 – 10.30-10.45am – West Plaza Hotel, Wakefield Street, Wellington
Kia ora Tätou. Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to address your conference.

I am pleased to be here again. I want to take this opportunity to talk to you about the sector, and how it might move ahead over the next three years.

I would like to acknowledge the value and contribution that recreational fisheries make to the New Zealand way of life. This is a theme I would like to return to in some of the aspects I will talk to you about today – how we value recreational fishing.

There is no doubt that the pleasure of fishing for recreation is something enjoyed by many New Zealanders. Be it fishing with the kids off a wharf; scuba diving for crayfish; or searching the swells for a big-game marlin; that's about catching fish and the pleasure of all that goes with it.

This is a diverse and complex sector. Estimates suggest approximately 20 per cent of New Zealanders participate in recreational fishing. Recreational fishing also attracts foreign tourists.

This operating environment requires that our fisheries resources and the aquatic environment must be managed with care so that current and future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of well-managed fisheries.

The theme of your conference – ‘shared responsibility’ is central to addressing these issues and enabling benefits to be delivered to all users.

The Government will continue to set the context and boundaries within which fisheries management occurs.

This involves describing the outcomes or results that we want to see from the management of fisheries. It also means developing more detailed objectives for particular fisheries.

To be successful, this process requires the participation of strong stakeholder groups; groups that are able to work together to not only define a common purpose for managing a fishery, but also to be involved in its management.

This challenge involves building organisations that have the skills and structures to play a more active role in formulating management objectives and interventions.

I am pleased that the government has taken steps to support recreational fishers in developing capacity and participation in fisheries management.

One key initiative is the establishment of a Recreational Fishing Ministerial Advisory Committee. I am sure Peter Ellery; Sheryl Hart; Max Hetherington, Lorraine Hill; Bob Meikle; Geoff Rowling; and Kim Walshe will make a valuable contribution.

I was encouraged by the strong interest shown in the establishment of this committee and the high calibre of the sixty-nine nominations that were received.

A parallel initiative is the reestablishment by the Ministry of Fisheries of nationwide regional recreational forums.

These regional forums will be ‘representative’ of local fishing groups and will enable improved participation in statutory fisheries management processes.

Both developments are about recreational fishers participating more directly in fisheries management.

Engagement with the recreational fishing sector takes place against a backdrop of increasing demand on the use of ‘shared’ fisheries resources. The challenge is to manage the question of allocation in a constructive way.

This is where some of the toughest decisions are made and where the concept of ‘shared responsibility’ really matters. A little later in this speech I will talk specifically about one species – and two paths that are available to manage it.

The government has been investing in initiatives that will provide us with more information about fisheries and their management.

A four million dollar increase in research will improve the recreational catch database.

I know that the Marine Protected Areas strategy is of significant interest to all fisheries stakeholders. My colleague Chris Carter and I have said that marine reserves are only one way of safeguarding biodiversity and we need to be thinking about a range of options to balance the competing demands on our coastal resources.

In my speech to your conference last year I signalled work was beginning to review a number of regulations that are in place to manage recreational fisheries.

The purpose of this work was to provide recreational fishers with an opportunity to articulate the specific problems that you had with some of the regulations, and to explore how these difficulties might be resolved.

I am pleased to hear that there was robust and constructive discussion during the workshops associated with this review, and that a preliminary position has been reached on each of the proposals for change.

I expect to make final decisions on the proposed changes in time for them to be included in the October round of regulation changes. I see that a more detailed discussion of this review is scheduled for one of the conference sessions tomorrow morning.

This is a significant project, one of which I am fully supportive. Again I urge you to get involved and participate.

In recent years we have seen a significant Ministry focus on the illegal harvest and trade of species such as paua and rock lobster.

A number of significant prosecutions have highlighted the extent of the problem and the lengths to which offenders are prepared to go to succeed in their illegal business enterprises.

I am pleased to tell poachers and black-market fishing operations that they are the target of an $11.6 million crackdown over the next four years contained in Budget 2005.

This includes $2.9m of operational funding in the coming year to create a Special Tactics team for covert operations.

This gives us greater capacity to investigate more complex offending. This initiative will see the development of a major new multi-agency approach to target black market and poaching activities.

As recreational fishers, your most likely interface with the Ministry's compliance function is through Honorary Fisheries Officers. After a review of HFO effectiveness and safety a few years ago the Ministry restructured it's HFO service.

HFOs now commit to doing at least 100 hours a year and do their beat work in pairs. I can confirm to you that this restructuring has seen a massive reduction in the number of attacks on these officers, while simultaneously recording an increase in the number of hours delivered.

Tomorrow, Dr John Glaister, the Chief executive of the Ministry, will provide you with more detail on the Ministry's Statement of Intent.

John is well qualified to lead the Ministry. He has held various scientific and management positions in fisheries research and resource management in New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland, Australia.

John has a great deal of respect for New Zealand’s fisheries management techniques and is interested in facilitating a higher level of engagement with the recreational sector and other stakeholders in fisheries management decision-making.

As mentioned earlier, fisheries resources must be shared among those who derive legitimate value from them — including recreational, customary, and commercial fishers. The Statement of Intent acknowledges the importance of all these sectors and I urge you to take advantage of the insight he will share with you.

I would add, that those who use fisheries resources also have responsibilities. Responsibilities include using fisheries in a sustainable manner, protecting the aquatic environment, and taking only their share of the available yield.

One of my key responsibilities as Minister is around setting catch allowances. Last year I made important decisions around Kahawai. In doing that I took a deliberately cautious approach in setting the Total Allowable Catch because of uncertainty in information on the status of Kahawai stocks; doubled with a desire to maintain and hopefully improve the available stock.

At the time, I undertook to review Kahawai in 12 months time. I also undertook to commission further monitoring. Though that monitoring process is far from complete, some initial findings suggest that recreational Kahawai take is still low, particularly in the Hauraki Gulf.

The process for reconsideration of Kahawai allocation for 2005-06 has just begun. Yesterday I signed off the Initial Position Paper (IPP) for Kahawai. This is available now for consultation.

This position paper contains essentially two alternate options for consideration. Either the status quo, or a rebuild strategy.

These choices are underpinned by two quite different approaches to the management of shared fisheries.

The conservative no change option could be described as maintaining the status quo.

The other option is underpinned by a new policy idea – that species important to recreational fishers should be managed above, or even significantly above, what fisheries documents refer to as BMSY – the size of a fish stock that delivers the maximum sustainable yield.

According to the Fisheries Act, "utilisation'' means conserving, using, enhancing, and developing fisheries resources to enable people to provide for their social, economic, and cultural wellbeing.

This new approach would effectively give greater recognition of recreational utilisation.

It would acknowledge that one size doesn't fit all. The optimum biomass of any fishery is likely to be different depending on the perspective of the fisher. For the recreational sector abundance of stock, a corresponding increased catch rate, or ability to catch larger fish, might be more important than extracting the maximum sustainable yield.

There is of course a trade off between yield and these other recreational utilisation qualities. If you want to catch fish more frequently, the size of the available stock will need to be increased above that which provides the maximum sustainable yield.

And therein lies the challenge and choice for you and me.

Let me add that under both Kahawai options, no additional recreational management controls are contemplated. There is no evidence before me, that the recreational sector is catching the allowance assigned to it. This issue will need to be monitored on an on-going basis.

I am sure you will be very interested in commenting on the papers just released and I expect an interesting consultation period.

As I said at the beginning of this address, a fundamental question is just how do we value recreational fishing.

I hope that your conference is successful, and I again stress the Government’s interest in working together with recreational fishers to realise the value and contribution that this sector has to offer our country and way of life.

Tënä koutou, tënä koutou, tënä tätou kätao.


Hon David Benson Pope, MP
Member of Parliament for Dunedin South
Minister of Fisheries
Associate Minister for the Environment

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