Mainland Catch – improving the management of South Island recreational fisheries

Measuring recreational catch is a shot in the dark

The late W. Edwards Deming was an engineer, statistician, and professor whose insights are still often quoted. One quote is ‘A system must have an aim. Without the aim, there is no system.’

New Zealand’s systems for managing different fishing sectors have mixed results.

The Quota Management System (QMS) for managing the commercial sector is undergoing significant improvements by implementing electronic reporting and monitoring.

The aim of these improvements is to better ensure sustainability through greater transparency and accountability. Such improvements are necessary for the QMS to keep pace with other QMS-type systems worldwide.

In contrast, the system for managing the recreational sector remains obsolete for two reasons.

First, the system lacks data on recreational catch and effort by area despite the National Panel Survey in use since 2011/12.

The survey results extrapolate data from 5,000 to 7,000 participants; it is a bit of a stretch to base estimates of total catches on data from 1% of the estimated total number of recreational fishers.

Also, since the survey is household based, estimates are less precise for some South Island areas.

Furthermore, there are questions about the value for money given the survey costs around $5 million, with most of the cost spent finding who fishes. The cost limits its use to every 5 to 6 years, which impacts on system responsiveness.

Second, the system relies on management tools that have remained largely unchanged since the Muldoon era; the tools comprise daily bag and size limits, along with some spatial and temporal limits.

In comparative terms, New Zealand remains in a bygone era, behind overseas jurisdictions’ aims and tools for managing recreational fisheries.

The problem is the system lacks a substantive aim; that is, sustainability can be compromised when we don’t know what was caught or the tools used cannot limit total catches to Ministerial- determined recreational allowances. The recent re-opening of the Kaikoura paua fishery is a classic example.

Fish Mainland recognises the first step towards improving the system is better data on recreational catch and effort.

The benefit for fishers is that better data informs management decisionmaking, including occasions that substantiate the importance of a fishery for recreational use or reduce environment impacts that benefit all sectors.

Fish Mainland has collaborated with the Nelson-based Plink Software Ltd to develop a recreational fisher self-reporting system first applied to the blue cod fishery and currently expanding into other fisheries.

The data is collected via a mobile app, appropriately named Mainland Catch. It is an intuitive and simple app for fishers to use on their fishing trips. A single person can record data for all members of a fishing group.

While data reporting is aggregated to show blue cod caught by area, fishers’ personal data is not made available to the public.

Recently Fish Mainland released Mainland Catch to its members, South Island fishing clubs and other recreational fishing-related groups.

During recent meetings in Otago and Southland, Fiordland fishers consistently supported Mainland Catch as an integral part of the Fiordland Marine Guardians proposed management changes.

Mainland Catch is now available to the wider South Island recreational sector.

Fish Mainland will hold meetings throughout the South Island to demonstrate Mainland Catch, and to discuss its importance for recreational fishers.

We trust its importance is increasingly apparent. As Deming said, ‘The ultimate purpose of collecting the data is to provide a basis for action or a recommendation.’

Links to download Mainland Catch and videos on how easy it is to use, along with meeting schedule, can be found on our website: fishmainland.nz

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