The Minister has chosen an even more conservative option.
The CRA 2 industry has strongly supported measures to get this fishery on a secure rebuild trajectory. It had accepted that, even after voluntarily reducing commercial catch by 50 tonnes in each of the last two years, as well as continuing significant investments in research and monitoring of the fishery, that further measures were necessary to achieve a rebuild of the stock.
Their primary concern has been to get this fishery on a rebuild trajectory using best available science and evidence.
The decision is an aggressive cut which will have severe socio-economic consequences for industry participants spread from East Cape to the northern Hauraki Gulf.
Some very difficult decisions will need to be made by the predominately small family businesses that operate in the CRA 2 fishery, and we expect that a substantial number of commercial vessels will be forced off the water, with loss of employment and adverse impacts on associated businesses and smaller coastal communities.
NZ RLIC is encouraged by the acknowledgement from the Minister of his obligations to control recreational catch, and the expectation there will be increased compliance focus from MPI to reduce the levels of illegal unreported removals. It is now critical that adjustments are made to regulatory controls by 1 October to ensure recreational catch is constrained to the allowance and does not compromise the rebuild.
The NZ RLIC will work with government to improve the effectiveness of measures to combat illegal take, to ensure that the rebuild of the fishery provides benefits to customary, commercial and recreational fishers, not fish thieves.
The industry has made a commitment to offer a reward of $5000 for provision of information to MPI that supports a successful prosecution for illegal take for sale or trade of rock lobster from CRA 2.
We expect to see MPI review the very dated estimates of illegal take, and commit to new resources and undertake specific initiatives to combat illegal take of rock lobsters in CRA 2.
The Minister has provided a signal to the operators and businesses that, assuming the new measures work to rebuild the stock, that the investment and large reductions volunteered by industry will be recognised by a reinstatement of the TACC and sharing of the benefits with customary and recreational fishers.
This signal may provide some comfort to financial institutions who might be prepared to extend debt arrangements and assist operators to survive economically.
The new Minister has shown himself to be decisive but perhaps unnecessarily conservative. He has cut commercial catches very significantly, and he has maintained recreational catches at current levels.
The outcome of these decisions for the stock will be dependent on the actions taken to manage fishing to the allowances he has set as stock abundance increases, and the steps that can be taken to materially curtail fish thieves.
The industry will continue to work constructively with iwi and recreational fishers to rebuild this important fishery and restore the benefits that come from a healthier stock status.
CRA 4, CRA 7, CRA 8
NZRLIC supports the decisions made for the CRA 4, 7 & 8 rock lobster stocks.
These reflect the outcome of the management procedures for these stocks and the considerable investment of effort and resources made by industry to ensure good science and evidence is available to support the Minister’s decisions.
The adjustments to the commercial catch limits for these stocks will ensure they remain on track to achieve their management targets and provide healthy stock sizes and benefit the customary, recreational and commercial sectors.
For all New Zealand’s rock lobster stocks there is work to be done to improve the relatively poor information on and management of recreational catch and the substantial levels of illegal removals.
For some time management has been very lopsided with a particular focus on the regulation of commercial catch.
Decisive steps must be taken by MPI to reduce the unacceptable level of illegal take from our fisheries and ensure the benefits of harvest accrue to legitimate extractive sectors, not fish thieves.