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Give the gulf a chance!

 |  Dirk Sieling  | 
I refer to the article supplied by Doug Saunders-Loder, president of the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen (Edition …)  His letter cannot go unchallenged. He accuses the recreational fishers of wanting to push commercial fishers right out of the Park. And please let’s not forget that the Hauraki Gulf is a legally gazetted Marine Park. Wilfully destroying the bottom flora and fauna should not be allowed in any sort of park.
To be clear, Legasea is not opposed to commercial fishing as claimed by Doug. What Legasea opposes are fishing methods that are both indiscriminate and destructive, especially when they bring a lower return. Legasea supports more artisanal methods such as long lining and potting that bring a much higher return per kg of fish. Such methods are ideally suited to a marine park having less impact and being more selective. Commercial fishers, by being hand in glove with MPI, already enjoy considerable advantages over recreational fishers, such as the right to start taking scallops 1 month before recreational fishers. Through overfishing the scallop beds are now wiped out to the point that fishery had to be closed altogether. Another example are snapper size limits, which are 30 cm for recreational, yet only 25 cm for commercial clearly giving them a big head start at taking a large chunk of snapper stock that recreational anglers must return to the sea. And yes Doug makes the point about other stressors which are a legitimate concern, but the commercial sector continues to exaggerate their effects as being by far the biggest contributor to declining fish stocks. Witness however the inner Hauraki Gulf, which has the vast bulk of land based stressors such as sedimentation and pollutants, yet snapper stocks have increased considerably since bottom trawling was banned there, clearly showing which stressor had the most impact on fish stocks. Commercial long line fishing in the inner gulf has improved as a result. The reality is that the commercial sector needs to adapt to the times and move on from getting the most fish by the cheapest possible method regardless of environmental impact or value of the catch. Improvements on land in terms of biodiversity and run-off have not yet been matched by improvements in the marine environment, which up until recently has by and large been ignored. Large areas of the Park have had the bottom destroyed and sediments resuspended with these fishing methods and to claim that these areas won’t recover is disingenuous. We know that recovery takes a very long time and won’t happen in one generation, but that’s not a reason to not give it a chance.

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