New Zealand to install cameras on board all fishing vessels and implement Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH) within 2 years

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According to the New Zealand Herald (Steve Deane – Ministry unveils cameras to prevent dumping of fish 26 Nov. 2013) the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries unveiled new technology designed to prevent fish dumping by the country’s commercial fishing fleet will be unveiled today.

This ‘new technology’, essentially on-board surveillance cameras are to be made mandatory by October 2015 under changes to the regulation of the New Zealand (Northern Snapper fishery (SNA1). The surveillance technology will be used to monitor the on-board activities of fishermen. Two surveillance cameras were installed on the Aotearoa Fisheries vessel the FV Corinthian. According to the FV Corinthian skipper Flea Reid the camera don’t bother him.

The Minister for Primary Industries told fishing.net that (Snapper 1 Commercial fishing to be monitored):

This programme will provide greater information on the total commercial catch, particularly on the numbers of small snapper being caught and the size, age, location and timing of commercial catch generally… The information will provide the public and recreational fishers with greater reassurance that commercial fishers are following the rules. In general most are, but it will now be much tougher to break the law and get away with it… I’m very pleased that the fishing industry are also developing a ‘move on’ rule where fishers will have to move on from a fishing spot if too many juvenile fish are being caught.”

Fishing.net also reports that work is also underway on introducing mandatory vessel monitoring systems on all commercial vessels by 1 October 2014, and a $7 million scientific tagging survey will be introduced by 1 October 2014.

TV3 Video: Cameras installed on trawlers to stop fish dumping (Click to view video)

TV3 Video: Cameras installed on trawlers to stop fish dumping (Click to view video)

With respect to SNA1, according to Steve Deane this monitoring programme – which will see 25 per cent of the trawl fleet have cameras or observers on board by 1 December, rising to 50 per cent by October 1, 2014 and 100 per cent by 1 October, 2015 – is part of a range of initiatives announced by the Minister for Primary Industries which will address issues of wastage, primarily the unlawful discard of by-catch and high grading.

The practice of high grading is the return of small but legal-sized fish into the sea, and the retaining only of larger fish.

These new measures that are being implemented are part of the new rules that are being imposed to maintain the Northern Snapper (SNA1) stocks. These rules also includes new bag limits and minimum sizes for Recreational fishers. Recreational fishers’ daily bag limit for SNA1 snapper is being reduced from nine fish to seven, and the minimum size will increase from 27 to 30 centimetres.

As one can imagine this has gone down like a lead balloon. According to the New Zealand Herald recreational fishing lobby group Legasea has welcomed moves to reduce commercial waste but rues the decision to leave commercial catch limits and sizes where they are, and impose restrictions instead on recreational fishers in the SNA1 area.

Steve Deane quotes the Legase national programme leader Mandy Kupenga:

It’s taken more than 30 years to get recognition of this issue and a plan to address this waste… If Mr Guy’s [Minister for Primary Industries] proposed initiatives are implemented thoroughly it will make a significant impact on rebuilding the fish stocks… However, the decision to leave the commercial size limit at 25cm and leave the commercial quota untouched while adjusting both the size and bag limits for recreational fishers was disappointing.”

Initially a Ministry for Primary Industries Initial Position Paper (IPP) recommended a decrease of the recreational bag limit to three fish. This proposal created a huge public response, with more than 49,000 submissions made on the IPP.

What’s GFBF’s Point?

I for one support the measures being implemented (and would have liked to have seen an even smaller bag limit for recreational fishers as arguable 7 is still too many). Recreational fishers (especially in SNA1) are very apt to blame commercial fishing for any sustainability concerns – lauding the usual refrain:

They take too much!”

But actually the reality in the SNA1 (Auckland) area is very different. This can be seen in the Annual TAC and the TACC.

For the 2012 year the Ministry for Primary Industries set a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 7,550 tonnes of Snapper for SNA1 per year. This TACC includes:

  • a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) of 4500 tonnes; and
  • a Recreational Catch Allowance of 2,600 tonnes (this is a colossal portion of the TAC). My question is this – how is this Recreational Catch Allowance of 2,600 tonnes policed? Well I can answer – Its not really!

Auckland (the City of Sails) is crammed with recreation boats and with them recreational fishers. according to the New Zealand Herald there are around 135,000 boats registered in Auckland.

Just imagine if only 25% of all the registered boats in Auckland go fishing for snapper 3 times a month with a bag limit of 9? That equates to

  • 33,750 boats looking for snapper 3 times a month.
  • 101, 250 fishing trips, and if the previous bag limit of 9 is completely caught
  • 911,250 fish taken by recreational fishers

But these numbers do not take into account fishers who don’t comply with bag limits, fishers who throw back little ones in order to high grade (take home 9 big fish) or who take more than the bag limit. There is no requirement for Recreational fishers to report their catches.

Assessing sustainability and managing a commercial species that is heavily fished by recreational fishers is a real challenge.

Precision Seafood Harvesting

From a commercial fishing and sustainability perspective the implementation of Precision Seafood Harvest (PSH) nets, designed to allow undersized fish to escape, in the SNA1 fishery will be drastically beneficial for immature and juvenile snapper, and would remove the utility of discard and high-grading regulations.

According to Steve Deanethe Minister for Primary Industries wants to see PSH gear on all vessels within in two years. 

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