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Ministry Actions a Threat to East Coast Economy

CRA 3 Industry Association


13 September 2005
Media Release
For Immediate Release

Ministry Actions a Threat to East Coast Economy

Gisborne-East Coast commercial fishermen fear being shut out of the coastal reefs they have fished profitably and sustainably since the 1940s.

They say Ministry of Fisheries’ (MFish) operational policy in regard to customary fisheries will further erode commercial property rights and severely affect their livelihoods and the district’s economy.

CRA 3 Industry Association co-chairman Gordon Halley, who has fished between Tokomaru Bay and East Cape for the past 30 years, says these rocky reefs within two nautical miles of the shore provide 95 percent of the CRA 3 catches.

“The remaining 99 percent of the quota management area – extending to 200 nautical miles offshore and bounded by East Cape and the Wairoa River – has never, and will never, contain significant numbers of rock lobster.”

Mr Halley says commercial operators across CRA 3 will pay the price when mataitai – customary fishing areas which exclude all commercial fishing – are established over productive fishing grounds that have historically been important to industry and other user groups. The use of Section 186(a) closures (1996 Fisheries Act) as a prelude to implementing mataitai is also a concern.

“We support the expression of customary rights but we are opposed to the uncoordinated promotion and development by MFish personnel which could see commercial fishing excluded from historically productive fishing grounds from Mahia to East Cape.

When the 1998 Kaimoana Customary Regulations were implemented, industry was assured by Ministry officials and iwi spokespeople that customary fishing areas would be small, discrete areas with minimal impact on commercial fishing. But there now seems to be no size limitation and no co-ordination of their development. Some hapu are seeking to have their entire coastal boundary within their gazetted rohe moana declared as mataitai.”

The 1998 regulations state that the Minister, in declaring a mataitai, must be satisfied that the reserve will not prevent commercial fishermen from taking their quota or annual catch entitlement within their quota management area. But Mr Halley points to the Hawke’s Bay where CRA 4 fishermen have recently been excluded from a 26km coastal strip starting at Whirinaki and who, if a 32km mataitai application south of Cape Kidnappers is approved, could lose a fifth (75-105T) of their total allowable commercial catch.

The CRA 3 Industry Association questions whether the Cabinet decisions that confirmed customary fishing rights intended these effects.

Mr Halley says the 1999 establishment of Te Tapuwae o Rongokako marine reserve at Pouawa removed from the CRA 3 fishery an area that had contributed 9 percent of the historical commercial landings.

“This caused a displacement of vessels and effort that led to increased competition for available catches between commercial and non-commercial users. This year the CRA 3 catch was cut in response to observed stock decline but industry bore the full extent of that cut when the Minister of Fisheries reduced the 327T total allowable commercial catch by 42 percent to 190T.

The Minister’s decision was notable in that the catch allowances for customary and recreational fishers remained at 20T each but the allowance for illegal fish thieves increased to 89T. The inshore commercial fishery is consistently being made a scapegoat for the Ministry of Fisheries’ failure to effectively monitor and control any seafood harvest besides the commercial catch,” says Mr Halley.

“The responsibility for implementing the customary fisheries settlement is one that rests with Government as the Treaty partner. Our industry is not prepared to pay the cost of that implementation by being excluded from our historical fishing grounds. We have written to Cabinet requesting a halt to the current MFish operational policies in regard to customary fishing rights with a view to getting the correct alignment of rights and responsibilities within the fisheries management framework.”

ENDS

Background

The CRA 3 fishery extends from East Cape to the Wairoa River and earns $10m in exports annually. The industry is tightly regulated by a world-renowned quota management system that ensures sustainable utilisation.

The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for CRA 3 is 319 tonnes of which 190 tonnes is allocated to commercial fishing. Within season an estimated 39 commercial vessels work the coastline from Mahia to East Cape. There are no reliable estimates of amateur or customary catches but 20 tonnes is allowed for each within that TAC. The allowance for fish thieving was increased to 89 tonnes when the TAC was declared in April 2005.

In Tokomaru Bay, Te Whanau a Te Aotawarirangi hapu wants a closure covering the coastal part of its rohe moana – five nautical miles of coast from the middle of Tokomaru Bay north to Motuahiauru Island – out to five nautical miles. This could ban all fishing (commercial and amateur) for two years, possibly longer, and could be followed by the establishment of a mataitai that prohibits commercial fishing. The only current commercial operations in the area are rock lobster potting and trawling for snapper and tarakihi.

Iwi members at Mahia recently notified four self-declared closed areas with the intent of applying for S186(a) status. The iwi members intend the four areas to be closed to all commercial and amateur fishing.

ENDS

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