Have your say on proposed changes to Fiordland’s recreational fishing rules

Fiordland Marine Guardian, Rebecca McLeod, speaking with attendees at a boat show in 2021

Last month, Fisheries New Zealand began public consultation on proposed amendments to Amateur Fishing Regulations in the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area (FMA). The Fiordland Marine Guardians are seeking changes to the amateur fishing rules within the FMA to align them with the philosophy of ‘fishing for a feed, not the freezer’. This consultation, which runs until September 30, marks a key milestone in the Guardians’ review of fisheries sustainability in the FMA.

The philosophy of ‘fishing for a feed, not the freezer’, guided the development of the original Fiordland recreational rules in 2005 with the establishment of the Fiordland Marine Management Act.

At that time, the Act, and the fisheries rules and regulations aligned with it, provided an innovative and future-focused means of ensuring Fiordland was cared for, for future generations.

Unfortunately, the current regulations will not allow us to achieve healthy and sustainable recreational fisheries into the future.

The Fiordland Marine Guardians’ renewed focus on fisheries sustainability commenced in 2019 when several fishers and charter boat operators raised concerns about fish stocks within the FMA. Worry is centred on the health of key fish stocks within the fiords, inside the habitat lines, which have been solely an amateur/recreational fishery since 2005. As a group with extensive first-hand experience of the area, the Guardians shared their concerns.

Multiple species targeted by recreational fishers, including blue cod (rāwaru), groper (hāpuku), pāua, and scallops, are considerably depleted in the Internal Waters of the fiords. There is clear evidence of increasing fishing pressure over time and that trend is forecast to continue.

An unintended consequence of the fishing regulations introduced in 2005 has been a concentration of fishing effort in the entrances of many fiords, seaward of the habitat lines. There are clear signs that the current fishing pressure inside the fiords is unsustainable, and many key fish stocks require rebuilding.

This round of public consultation focuses solely on changes to amateur fishing rules and regulations. It marks a key milestone for our group following three years of engagement with Fiordland’s fishing charter operators and the fishing community. Ngāi Tahu ki Murihiku are represented on the Fiordland Marine Guardians and have helped shape the proposed amendments.

We are the first to admit that our proposal is not perfect. The problem we need to solve is complex and we all need to be part of delivering a workable solution for the good of this spectacular corner of the planet.

Management of recreational fisheries in New Zealand has been challenged by a lack of robust catch data. We are optimistic that a workable solution for Fiordland is within reach. Fish Mainland is a not-for-profit organisation with the aim of providing a unified voice for the marine recreational fishing community in the South Island and Stewart Island and have developed a self-reporting app in conjunction with Fisheries New Zealand. Crucially, Fiordland’s fishing community has expressed a strong willingness to use it. We will continue to advocate for these initiatives and develop a more holistic way of managing the entire fishery in the years ahead.

Before making a submission on the proposed amendments we encourage everyone to learn about the problem we need to solve and the details of our proposal.

Your input will help us strengthen the proposal and make any changes to the amateur fishing rules for the FMA more likely to succeed.

You can read the full proposal and download a submission form at mpi.govt. nz/consultations/review-of-recreational-fishing- measures-fiordland-marine-area or scanning this QR code.

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