We are in an election year with Ministers keen to demonstrate what they have achieved in the last term so we might give them our vote. Want to hear what the Minister of Fisheries has to say about the National promise for recreational only areas for fishing….
On the 4th February 2011 the Minister of Fisheries, Hon Phil Heatley met with members of the NZRFC executive to discuss current issues. Topics covered included the Council’s strategic direction to foster change to a better future as well as Marlborough Blue Cod, East Coast Crayfish, the impending merger of MFish and MAF and the election promise to establish recreational only fishing areas. The Minister gave a concerning response when asked for an update on progressing with recreational only fishing areas. He has been in discussions with the commercial seafood industry finding out what areas the commercial fishers would be prepared to consider as recreational only areas. He commented that he had come to the conclusion that any recreational only areas would be for finfish only and not for sessile species as “they are too valuable commercially.”
Once again this is a situation where the priority is on understanding and managing the needs of the commercial seafood industry and the secondary issue becomes how recreational interests can fit. It is not a proactive understanding of recreational fishing needs and interests. How about talking with recreational fishers about the areas? Where might they be, how big, for what kind of fishing and what species? This is not an attack on the commercial seafood industry. After all, maybe the Minister talked with them over this issue because they have certain characteristics attractive to a Minister wanting to avert risk in his decision making. They are visible, are powerful and speak with a coordinated voice. The recreational sector on the other hand are less visible with the majority of recreational fishers non affiliated to any fishing club or organisation, are weak with miniscule resources to call on and little political influence and speak with many voices. Having to accept any decisions the Minister makes on recreational only areas is just a continuation of the powerless role recreational fishers in New Zealand find themselves in. While the fishing is good in your local area, this weak position is just fine, but when things aren’t so good and recreational fishers want to do something about it, they find there is little pathway to tread and few tools to wield in making change.