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Major Progress Made In South Island Eel Fishery

MEDIA RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE USE
24 JUNE 1999

MAJOR PROGRESS MADE IN SOUTH ISLAND EEL FISHERY

Food and Fibre Minister, Hon John Luxton, today welcomed the presentation of six eel management plans developed under the auspices of Te Waka a Maui me ona Toka Mahi Tuna (TWM). TWM advise the Minister and oversee the relationship of the eel population and the sustainability of the eel fishery in the South Island.

"I am thrilled to see progress being made toward the better management of the South Island eel fishery, and am encouraged by the way that customary Maori and the commercial eel industry have worked together to achieve a common goal".

In 1994 the Crown met with Ngai Tahu over eel fisheries issues. In turn, Ngai Tahu invited representatives of the commercial eel industry to form a joint working group. This group later joined with the top of the South Island iwi to protect and manage the eel fishery over the whole of the South Island, Te Wahi Pounamu. The Crown then approved funding through the Ministry of Fisheries for a comprehensive and innovative eel management programme which included the formation of six regional eel management committees;

* North Canterbury and South Marlborough
* Lake Ellesmere
* Southland and Otago
* Waitaki and South Canterbury
* West Coast
* Nelson and North Marlborough (rohe of Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Maui)

Tangata whenua and commercial eel fishers are represented equally on the committees. Committee members have equal voting rights. While they have been funded for the past two years, they will eventually be self-supporting and managed independently.

"It is often difficult to strike a balance where conflicting interests compete, however the co-operative and coordinated approach that has been adopted between customary Maori and the commercial eel industry is to be applauded. It is refreshing not to have to play the role of the 'referee' where sustainability issues are concerned".

Each committee has developed an area management plan that covers:

* improvement of the environment,
* population evaluation,
* the nature and extent of the customary eel fishery,
* compliance,
* information requirements, and an
* educational programme.

"I am aware that there are difficult issues that need to be resolved, however, I am hopeful that South Island eels can be introduced into the QMS with as little disruption as possible".

"I am delighted to accept the six management plans that have been presented to me today and look forward to TWM continuing with this work by discussing the plans with those that have an interest in the wider management of the South Island eel fishery.

ENDS

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