Managing recreational fishing using DATA

The single biggest risk to recreational fishing is that fisheries managers are too accustomed to managing recreational fisheries with guesswork, and the lack of reliable and timely data makes that possible.

This is ironic given Fisheries New Zealand (MPI) spends on average over $1 million annually to collect such data.

Most of the annual budget for recreational data collection is spent on the National Panel Survey, a nationwide household survey undertaken every five or six years costing $5 to $6 million.

Most of the Survey’s funding is used to find people who fish and are prepared to record their data for a one-year period. Note: Fisheries New Zealand does not hold a database of fishers to randomly select for lower-cost survey methods.

The main problem with the Survey, is it has limited effectiveness in several South Island regions, where most of the fishing is done by people in transit; transient fishers are not well represented in a household-based survey, and so the results are far less certain.

Also, the Survey results are uncertain due to high extrapolation of data in estimating area-wide total catch of certain fisheries (generally based on data from one percent of estimated total fishers in an area). The five to six year interval between surveys is problematic for management purposes, as a fishery’s characteristics can change rapidly. The management change process needs to be adaptive and timelier.

This prolonged situation has caused recreational fisheries to be managed largely on guesswork. The lack of data or poor quality data inevitably leads to recreational fishers’ interests being subordinated, ignored or disadvantaged in other ways.

This is a mockery of the fact that collectively recreational fishers harvest a significant portion of the total catch, particularly in inshore fisheries, which can adversely impact catch rates for the other fishing sectors and contribute to localised depletion.

Excessive recreational fishing has led to some fisheries having their sustainability at risk. Classic examples include the South Island blue cod fishery, particularly in the Marlborough Sounds, Motunau Beach in North Canterbury and more recently the paua fishery in the Kaikoura region (PAU3A).

A related scenario is the lack of available data could lead to valued fishing grounds being closed. A classic example is the proposed no take marine protected areas (MPAs) for the Otago and Catlin coasts.

We still await the Government’s response to the previous administrations decision to establish six MPAs. There were objections to the adverse impact caused by the MPAs, but with little data available, DoC was able to ignore the objections when advising Ministers.

The result being that important recreational fishing opportunities with safe access could be lost, while alternative opportunities pose greater safety risks and potential inter-sectoral tensions and conflicts.

For these reasons, Fish Mainland Inc, with the financial support of MPI’s Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures fund and the Myers Foundation Trust, developed the Mainland Catch app https://www.fishmainland.nz/mainland-catch-app

This intuitive, easy to use app, and resultant database, is the next best step in improving recreational fishing and the management of fisheries – without more reliable and timely recreational data, no further steps are possible.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge Stephen Logie, Chief Compliance Officer at MPI’s Invercargill office, who recently retired after 47 years of public service.

Stephen embodied what we consider to be an effective public servant. He was generous with his knowledge and insights for numerous groups and individuals involved in fishing, including the Fiordland Marine Guardians. We wish him well. He will be missed in the Southern region.

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