Create an inshore coastal zone where industrial fishing methods such as trawling, seining and dredging are banned until better selectivity, less benthic damage and reduced wastage can be demonstrated
Our precious fisheries resources are being wasted, en masse, every day.
Millions of small fish, mostly immature, are killed and discarded every year. We cannot rebuild the fishery and manage for abundance while this level of juvenile mortality exists. One common cause of this gross waste is the use of unselective and archaic fishing methods, such as trawling.
Trawling is a hangover from centuries gone by and bulk harvesting methods such as trawling, Danish seining and dredging needs to be banished from our nearshore waters.
One of the problems is that research data is not being made available so we can see what damage is occuring due to trawling. Data is groomed and filtered through fishing industry and officials’ hands before we are allowed to see it.
For example, over a 15 month period we asked for research data from the 1993-94 project looking into juvenile snapper mortality caused by trawling in the Hauraki Gulf. Recreational fishers first asked for this information in 1994. By October 2014 we received some information, but not all of the relevant data.
More recent studies by commercial interests and Ministry have shown much lower juvenile snapper mortality rates. These results are difficult to reconcile because they don’t match past studies so we don’t know if the small fish are not there any more, or if commercial fishers have worked out ways to avoid them even though they are fishing in the same areas with much the same methods.
What’s more, we receive this information from officials 10 minutes after it’s posted online and 8 minutes after Sanford post a video discussing the data.
It is hard to get to the bottom of the wastage issue when we get filtered data after MPI and commercial interests have collaborated to produce a slick video espousing how good they are at avoiding small fish.
Commercial fishing interests and taxpayers have invested resources into developing new technology aimed at reducing this unproductive waste. So far we haven’t been given access to any results or even benchmarks for success.
Given our collective investment we expect research results to be made available to the public. It will be good to get proof that the senseless waste of fish is being addressed.
Recreational fishers who practice catch and release must ensure a high level of survivorship of released fish. Otherwise they are contributing to wasteful mortality by poor fishing practice. Most fishers releasing live fish from the hook expect they are conserving fish for the future. Fish that are lip hooked and caught in depths less than 25 metres have a better chance of survival, with a few conditions. Survivorship will be improved greatly if release weights are routinely used when fish are suffering from barotrauma.
Fish caught in depths over 30m will have punctured or very distended swim bladders. Survival of these fish is far less certain and varies with species.
What this means for you
Depletion is most often noticed in inshore waters first by fishers using largely inefficient fishing methods and divers who have to deal with the remnants of a once-abundant seabed. Meanwhile bulk harvesters can continue to fish even as the fishery depletes because their trawl, seining and dredging methods are far more efficient.
Significantly reducing the amount of waste will enable our fisheries to rapidly rebuild to international best practice levels.
More abundant fisheries will most likely reduce conflicts between sectors.
We will all benefit from having access to abundant and sustainable fish stocks and future generations can enjoy world class fisheries.
- We need to acknowledge the true level of wastage and devise strategies to minimise our impacts on the marine environment.
- We need to create an inshore coastal zone where industrial fishing methods such as trawling, Danish seining and dredging are banned.
- We need to reduce illegal fish dumping, killing small fish and damaging sensitive seafloor ecology.
- We need more transparency around fisheries research. Data and results need to be made publicly available so people can read and understand how New Zealand’s marine resources are being managed.
- We also need to identify areas that need protection from fishing. There are historic and known nursery and significant habitat areas. We need to protect these areas so juvenile fish can grow to adult size.
- The fishing public also has a responsibility to reduce waste.
- People have lots of good ideas to share. LegaSea calls for investment into resourcing a meaningful process whereby the public can research and consult and come up with ways to reduce wastage and conserve fish to accelerate the rebuild.