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Outdoors Lobby Wants Recreational Only Fisheries

Outdoors Lobby Wants Recreational Only Fisheries

A national outdoor recreational advocacy group wants freshwater fish species such as whitebait, eels and some saltwater species ”recreational only.”

The call by the Council of Outdoor Recreational Associations (CORANZ) an umbrella group of outdoor recreational organisations, was in response to Massey University researcher Mike Joy’s call to remove whitebait and eels from commercial status and protect them by a “recreational only” classification.

Bill Benfield, co-chairman CORANZ, conservationist and author, said that commercialised species, almost without exception, struggled to be sustainable in the face of human greed.

Scientist Mike Joy, said four of the five fish species that made up whitebait catches were threatened. If native fish had the same “recreational -only” protection given to the public’s trout fishery, there would be a huge improvement he said.

“Whitebaiting should be limited to recreational fishers and the fishery should be monitored”.

CORANZ’s Bill Benfield said commercially harvesting and selling endangered freshwater fish species, like long-fin eels and whitebait did not reflect well on New Zealand’s intelligence or conservation strategies.

“The adult fish are rapidly disappearing from our rivers, upsetting the natural ecological balance that has established over the last century.”

Selling whitebait (young native fish) had become a completely unregulated market, with no oversight on what was harvested by whom, or what happened to the resulting fish.

“There is anecdotal evidence of huge amounts of money being made by bogus ‘recreational’ fishermen. Prime fishing stands selling for as much as $20,000 or more each.”

As a recreational group, CORANZ totally supported the continued recreational and cultural harvesting of these fish, but perhaps under licence so that the fishery could be properly managed.

“It would need a total ban on the sale of such fish - as is done with trout - to stop the commercial plundering of these endangered native species. This has been shown to be a very successful model when used on trout and other sports fish,” said Bill Benfield.

He said the “recreational-only” status had potential to be applied to saltwater species such as kahawai which had been severely depleted by commercial over-fishing and which, like eels, often ended up in tins of petfood.


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