The politics of Recreational Fishing

When the general election rolls around every three years, many recreational fishers likely chew over the politics of recreational fishing.

Fishing is inherently political. Politicians are often pressured by a range of interests, with some viewing recreational fishing as something to discourage or outright ban where possible.

Fishing is also political because it involves many people, around 1 in 10 New Zealanders fish.

In the lead up to the 14 October General Election, there is merit in knowing the political parties’ views on recreational fishing.

Fish Mainland asked each of the major political parties their views on the importance of recreational fishing, Fish Mainland’s representative role, our South Island Recreational Fisheries Policy, and our system for marine recreational fishers to selfreport their catch and effort data, aptly named Mainland Catch (refer to

Political parties’ responses: First, the Labour Party and Te Pāti Māori Party did not respond to our request. This is ironic given the incumbent government and the importance of fishing for many tangata whenua, respectively.

Second, the National Party replied in agreement with our 10 key principles set out in our policy, while noting appreciation for the considered and thoughtful contribution that Fish Mainland makes to policy discussions. The party also supports our Mainland Catch app to provide more accurate recreational fisher data.

Third, the ACT Party agrees that recreational fishing is an important pastime for many New Zealanders, and that fishing provides communities with significant benefits as both a source of food and an opportunity for recreation.

ACT believes that recreational fishers should play a part in the maintenance of healthy fisheries biomass. ACT acknowledges that interest groups play a key part in the sound function of New Zealand’s democracy, and that all people have the right to seek better political representation through participation in such groups.

Fourth, the New Zealand First Party’s response was largely about its support for aquaculture. The party did state that it values feedback and consultation and respects our role in representing the views of South Island recreational fishers. Also, the party does not see any discrepancy between its own aspirations and our policy’s 10 key principles.

Finally, the Green Party also supports our Mainland Catch app because ‘we can’t manage what we don’t measure.’ The party states that civil society and organisations like Fish Mainland are crucial for our democracy in contributing to public discussion and representing citizens’ views and concerns.

The Green Party highlighted its oceans policy that includes protecting at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.

The Green Party also states the ocean is important to many people for many different recreational activities. Accordingly, what is needed is a better collaborative and treaty-based approach to protecting and managing the ocean that works for everyone.

While Fish Mainland cannot endorse any political party’s views, we agree that a collaborative approach is needed.

However, the process for recently announced Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) along the southeast region of the South Island was anything but collaborative for the following reasons: 

• The governmentformed MPA ‘forum’ lacked representation of recreational fishers’ views.

• During consultation in 2020, Southeast locals provided solutions that worked for everyone, but they were ignored. 

• On 5 October, after three years of silence, the government announced its decisions. 

• Such an announcement is unprecedented, given that voting has already begun, which contradicts the longstanding ‘convention on caretaker government’.

We trust the above helps broaden your awareness of the main political parties’ views on recreational fishing and the importance Fish Mainland places on collaboration.

We encourage you to show your support for Fish

Mainland by becoming a member for free and making donations via our website or bank account no 03-08230101056-000.

Have you downloaded the Mainland Catch App?


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