Articles / 29 March 2018

You count when it comes to crayfish

Crayfish play an important role in the marine ecosystem. They are a target species for many people and a taonga, a treasure, that is important to the social, economic and cultural wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

An alliance of the largest representative recreational fishing organisations in New Zealand has responded to the Ministry for Primary Industries’ latest proposals for the future management of four crayfish stocks. The Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash will make a decision in March and it will apply from April 1st, 2018.

MPI propose to use pre-determined management rules to increase the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) in CRA 4 (Hawkes Bay – Wellington), and CRA 8 (Southland), and decrease the TACC in CRA 7 (Otago).

A complete review of the CRA 2 stock (Hauraki Gulf – Bay of Plenty) shows it has been declining for a long time. CRA 2 is at an all-time low. Recreational interests are calling for immediate, effective action to restore abundance.

A joint submission advocating for precautionary management of all four crayfish stocks was submitted by the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council – LegaSea teams and the New Zealand Angling and Casting Association. The submission has the support of Spearfishing New Zealand. There is also strong support from the New Zealand Underwater Association, representing recreational divers.

Joint submission recommendations:

  1. CRA 2 – Closure is an option given the low stock status compared to the target set five years ago. The Minister can choose MPI’s Option 4, with an 80 TACC, but that is risky.
  2. CRA 4 – No TACC increase, retain the status quo.
  3. CRA 7 – Support a TACC reduction of 15.5 tonnes, from 112.5 to 97 tonnes.
  4. CRA 8 – Retain status quo.
  5. CRA 2 Recreational allowance – Support reduction from 140 to 50 tonnes, being the best estimate of potential recreational catch.

LegaSea initiated the Crayfish Crisis public awareness campaign and survey in February. In the first 12 days over 3,900 people responded. People want conservative management, 42% want the Minister to close CRA 2 to all fishing for a period while 39% want the Minister to severely reduce the CRA 2 TACC and recreational allowance so the fishery can rebuild.

What next?

LegaSea will continue to gather survey responses. If you haven’t already, please complete the online survey at www.legasea.co.nz/crayfishcrisis or call 0800 LEGASEA (534 273).

The Minister must weigh the environmental, economic, social and cultural costs of his decision for each stock. For stocks with uncertain, unreliable or inadequate information the Minister needs to make precautionary decisions.

We are expecting the Minister’s decision any day now. In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that sustainability must be ensured. Providing for our cultural and social wellbeing are key factors when the Minister makes his decisions.

A review of regulations which may include changes to individual recreational bag limits will occur in mid-2018.

The joint recreational submitters are on standby to respond to the Minister’s decision for April 1st and any regulatory proposals that will affect our future access to an abundant cray fishery.

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