In November 2021, the Guardians travelled to Wellington to deliver their recommendations to. Hon David Parker, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, about changes to the amateur fishing regulations in the Fiordland (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Marine Area (FMA).
These recommendations were the culmination of more than two years of engagement with recreational fishers, operators of amateur charter vessels and the four southern Papatipu Rūnaka, spurred by increasing community concern about the state of key fish stocks. Over this time the Guardians met with focus groups, presented information at Mahinga Kai Hi Ika Komiti, conducted a survey, analysed date sets held by Fisheries New Zealand, and had wide-ranging discussions with members of the community at boat shows and because of a campaign in The Fishing Paper and Hunting News. The Guardians also have extensive first-hand knowledge of the issues and status of fisheries through their own experience fishing in the FMA.
It has become abundantly clear that multiple species targeted by recreational fishers, including blue cod/rāwaru, groper/hāpuku, pāua, and scallops are considerably depleted in the internal waters of the fiords. There is clear evidence of increasing fishing pressure over time and that trend is forecast to continue. It has also become apparent that an unintended consequence of the fishing regulations introduced in 2005 has been a concentration of fishing effort in the entrances of many fiords, seaward of the habitat lines. There are clear signs that the current level of fishing pressure occurring inside the fiords is unsustainable, and many key fish stocks require rebuilding.
The Guardians' vision is central to all that we do. This is the quality of Fiordland's marine environment and fisheries, including the wider fisheries experience, be maintained or improved for future generations to use and enjoy. The community has fed back strong sentiment that most want their mokopuna to experience the abundant fisheries they have been so fortunate to enjoy in their lifetimes.
The Guardians firmly believe that considerable changes to recreational fishing regulations are required to realise this vision and ensure that the solution will be enduring for decades to come. The Guardians have advised the Minister that a multifaceted approach is required for proposed changes to be successful. The concept of 'Fishing for a Feed' is one the Guardians have long embraced, and we wish to align the recreational bag limits with this in mind. We have also emphasised the critical need for robust data that will enable us to better detect and respond to change in the future. Another critical component is finding a way to encourage most of the fishing pressure to occur in the most productive parts of the FMA. And finally, we have recommended changes to the way fishing charter vessels are managed in fisheries legislation to improve data collection and reduce the potential contribution of these platforms to localised and serial depletion of fish stocks.
A comprehensive overview of what the Guardians are proposing can be viewed here.