The inshore tarakihi fishing industry has admitted it's failing to adhere to voluntary measures it promised in a 2019 tarakihi catch limit deal with then Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.
Tarakihi have been fished down to just 15% of their original levels. Anything less than 40% is considered overfished.
The voluntary measures promised by the inshore fishing industry informed the Minister's decision to reduce the commercial tarakihi catch by only 10%, meaning the stock will remain overfished for another 25 years.
But in a briefing to Minister Parker, obtained by Forest & Bird through the OIA, Fisheries Inshore Chair Laws Lawson admits tarakihi boats have been failing to keep out of areas they promised not to fish because of their importance for juvenile tarakihi (para 13, Voluntary Closed Areas).
The industry has also failed to adhere to its own voluntary ‘move on’ rule, which says if too many undersized tarakihi are caught the boat will stop fishing and move somewhere else (para 11, Move on Rules).
Forest & Bird advocate Geoff Keey says “Voluntary is simply not the same thing as mandatory. Commercial fishers have clearly been fishing hard up against the boundaries of closed areas where juvenile tarakihi are known to congregate, safe in the knowledge they can’t get in trouble when they cross the line".
“Bringing back our tarakihi population to good health depends on the rules working. New Zealanders deserve to have confidence that closed areas will be protected by the Ministry of Primary Industries. Every commercial fishing boat has a GPS these days and if ministers give MPI the authority, officials can act."
"Leaving the future of our oceans up to an industry that has a financial incentive to over fish makes no sense. The eastern tarakihi fishery is in a terrible state. It’s time for the Government to stand up to industry pressure, and restore the fishery with enforceable regulations,” says Mr Keey.
Forest & Bird is waiting on a judicial review of the 2019 tarakihi quota decision, saying at the time, “The Industry Rebuild Plan shouldn't be used in place of an appropriate catch limit. There is no way to determine what impact the industry plan will have, because it is voluntary."
"As Forest & Bird feared, the Government made that catch deal on the basis of shaky industry promises," says Mr Keey.