Change of leadership

At a meeting held on Saturday 30th August 2014 in Wellington Geoff Rowling resigned as president of the NZRFC and vice president Ted Howard was appointed to the role of president.

Ted comes from Kaikoura, is in his 10th year as president of the Kaikoura Boating Club, and has a long history of involvement in both recreational and commercial fishing, conservation, marine science, local and national politics.

Ted comes to the role with a commitment to having a greater abundance in the inshore than is present for many species, to developing local management, and to management that involves whole ecosystem considerations. His experience in the Te Korowai process over the last 9 years has given him some idea of what is involved.

The situation as Ted sees it.

Creating abundance will involve changes in the way all people interact with the ocean:

  • changes in behaviour by most recreational fishers, coming from new levels of understanding of the realities, and including all different groups within the sector talking and working together;
  • changes in behaviour by most commercial fishers, mainly from changes to fishing practices that kill fewer fish and do less damage to the ocean floor, and in part from automated recording of more detailed information;
  • changes in the way conservation groups behave towards fishers, both recreational and commercial, acknowledging the realities they face;
  • changes in the way the bureaucracies interact with all sectors, including the wider public, in the speed with which they react to information, and in the scale and scope of management measures (much finer scale close to shore);
  • changes in the political system to encourage and resource local management, to resource better science, and to honestly and openly work through the difficult problems.

Crayfish management in the Kaikoura region seems to be a model for fisheries management. Commercial fishers have resisted government attempts to drive abundance down to deliver short term increases in export income, and both recreational and commercial fishers enjoy reasonable abundance as a result.

Crayfish management in the Gisborne city area seems to be an example of everything that isn’t working. The situation there is extremely complex, with many difficult issues that many different sectors are unwilling to face head on. There deep issues of sovereignty, unresolved in 180 years that need to be addressed that will take time and effort to settle fairly. There are issues around displaced effort from marine reserve creation contributing to localised collapse, that no one in DOC or the conservation movement more widely want to acknowledge or address, and embedded in that are issues around commercial compensation that treasury and cabinet want to avoid acknowledging or addressing. All sectors are losers at present. It is about as ugly as it gets politically, and it needs addressing. It needed addressing 20 years ago. There are no simple answers, and there are ways back to abundance.

There is a strong need for integrity at all levels of debate.
The politicians and bureaucrats need to acknowledge that many of the fisheries laws are and always have been a fiction. That is a serious issue for many fishers, as for many it is, and always has been, impossible to work within the letter of the law, as the letter of the law has little relationship to the physical reality fishers face. Acknowledging that reality will be a good start towards creating systems that actually start to deliver what people expect of them.
Fishermen need to acknowledge that some practices really do need to change.
Conservation groups need to acknowledge that most fishermen really do want an abundant marine environment.
All of that is difficult when many people are firmly stuck in an us and them view of the world, and cannot clearly see that we are all in this together.

So it is not a simple journey we have ahead, and it does seem to be a journey worth making. There do in fact seem to be significant gains that can be delivered for all sectors, and it will take some real work to deliver them.

Acknowledging the current realities that exist seems to be step one (however ugly and unpleasant they may be).

Building trust and understanding is step two, and that is likely to involve a lot of time and effort and more than a little misunderstanding along the way. Such seems to be the nature of the process.

Getting from A to B is rarely a straight line when one is on the ocean, not many days are that calm; mostly there is a bit of wind or tide, a few rocks, other boats, etc, and a few changes of course are required. We should all be used to that.

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