Members Musings – Martyn Barlow, TasFish

March 2011

Member’s muse

There are varying points of view regarding the amateur fisher’s lot, and how they are or should be represented. One thing is clear in my mind that if the amateurs are to get better decisions from MFish then something needs to change, because the Ministry has changed dramatically.
Amateurs are represented by volunteers who donate considerable time at considerable financial cost. This needs to change if we are to compete with industry and manage fish stocks at abundance levels that are high enough to provide reasonable to access. Say what you like about it being a right for New Zealanders to be able to fish, at some point someone has to fight for that right and pay for the fight.
Most amateurs think it is unbelievable that MFish has allowed the concession fishery in Cray 3 to continue, where commercial fishers are allowed to take smaller crayfish than amateurs and now Minister Heatley and inshore manager Leigh Mitchell (previously of the Cray 3 area) have just created two more concession fisheries.
Unbelievable I know but recreational fishers in the Marlborough Sounds from 1 April will be required to return all Blue Cod outside the slot range of 30-35cm giving exclusive access to fish above 35cm to industry and further more commercial fishers will continue to be allowed to fish for blue cod when the fishery is closed to amateurs from 1 September to 20 December. But wait there is more a third concession fishery has been created for industry with the exemption to the set net prohibition allowing “commercial fishers only” to target butterfish in defined areas.
The number of people who fish for food or fun in NZ is estimated to be in excess of one million and I find it amazing how few people are actually prepared to put their shoulder to the wheel to improve the amateur’s access to abundant fisheries in this country, or is it that surprising?
Having been involved in advocacy for almost 10 years in the top of the South Island with TASFISH I am not really surprised few people get involved and the few that are have being doing it for longer that they care to remember, and at some cost. People are busy and either haven’t got the time, money (believe me it costs) or even energy to contribute to the amateurs cause and any free time they do have they would rather go fishing.
In 2010 we saw the organisational design review (ODR) of MFish under the then CEO Wayne McNee who when moved to MAF was not replaced at MFish, and we now know why as MAF and MFish are to be combined as one super Ministry.
The ODR did not achieve any reduction in MFish employees but saw the knowledge and experience ripped out of it’s fisheries management team with centralisation of inshore fisheries management to Wellington. This ensured MFish lost the people who had local area knowledge of fisheries and the associated issues. Furthermore this centralisation is contrary to the local area management that amateur representatives have been asking for and what is needed in shared fisheries.
Which brings me back to amateur representation and it’s effectiveness, because now more than ever under a new super Ministry the amateurs lot is under it’s greatest threat yet.
So fellow amateur fishers until you can park your own personal agendas and entrenched views to one side to allow us to stand united and work together as one voice through a statutory body that can employ full time professionals to represent us we will continue to get the unjust inequitable decisions from an industry funded super Ministry.
We can only blame ourselves if we do not change.

Martyn Barlow
President of TasFish

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