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Tarakihi quota cuts

Imposition of a further 10 percent cut to commercial catch limits for tarakihi has drawn a mixed response from Gisborne Fisheries and Ngati Porou Seafoods.

This time last year the Ministry for Primary Industries set a 20 percent reduction for New Zealand’s commercial catch of the inshore fish. Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has now announced the TACC (total allowable commercial catch) limits for tarakihi will be reduced by a further 10 percent.

Gisborne Fisheries was disappointed the Ministry did not take into account the initiatives they put in place last year, said chief executive Salvi Zame.

Ngati Porou Seafoods chief executive Mark Ngata said the cuts could have been worse. They could have been as high as 50 percent as outlined in the MPI consultation documents.

On top of the initial 20 percent reduction set in 2018, the fishing industry had a strategy to build tarakihi to the required level over a 20 year period, Mr Zame said.

“The ministry was unable to get results in a short period of time but we initiated what we planned to do. In the trajectory we’re on we’ve seen improvement but the ministry wasn’t satisfied with that.”

A stock assessment in 2021 would indicate the efficacy of the strategy in this area.

“The ministry’s rationale is they want to reach a target in a shorter period of time. There is no sustainability risk because we already had a 20 percent cut.”

The added 10 percent catch reduction requirement is a further hit to the East Coast because the industry’s stock sustainability strategy was already in place, says Mr Zame.

Mr Nash’s decision to add a further 10 percent reduction in tarakihi take followed a review of catch limits and management controls for 20 fish stocks. The extra 10 percent cut to commercial catch limits was supported by scientific evidence that the abundance of tarakihi on the East Coast is very low, Mr Nash said.

The 20 percent TACC cut the ministry made last year was a precautionary measure, says Mr Ngata. New data and theories about a one fishery source stock needed to be discussed and tested further.

“As part of those discussions with the minister and Fisheries NZ, the industry committed to providing a comprehensive plan to improve stock abundance and better management of harvesting efforts.”

The Ministry’s most recent decision meant industry must now deliver on that plan which included stricter harvesting strategies, monitoring, and information gathering, Mr Ngata said.

Research and the development of robust science data was part of the plan that aimed to increase stock abundance over the next 10-15 years. This would help establish more practical, sustainable monitoring levels.

“Current levels are based on overseas models which have largely collapsed. If we do have a world leading fishery management model then let’s set our own standards. Our fisheries are unique as is our environment.”

One stock biomass theory 'still just a theory'When Mr Nash said the abundance of tarakihi in the east coast was very low, he was referring to the whole of New Zealand’s east coast waters, Mr Zame told The Gisborne Herald last year. It is believed tarakihi along the east coast of New Zealand is one stock.

“Hopefully additional science and the management initiatives we put in place will deliver the rebuild and give us a better idea of the life cycle of tarakihi and stock movement.”

Tarakihi seemed to be in abundance in East Coast waters, he said.

The one stock biomass theory was still just a theory, said Mr Ngata. In terms of harvest, New Zealand’s three fisheries management areas were all performing differently. TAR1 (Bay of Plenty/Auckland) was very poor, TAR2 (East Coast/Wellington) was very good, and TAR3 (Kaikoura) was in between.

“Overall, however, the current science results are tracking at levels that are low and require action.

“The catch effort for tarakihi in these areas is also quite different. In TAR2/3 tarakihi is a key target species, whereas in TAR1 it’s not but snapper is.”

The industry was putting considerable effort into the development of improved harvesting techniques that allowed release of small fish or non-target fish. These techniques would be rolled out in the near future, Mr Ngata said.

Mr Nash has also asked the commercial fishing industry to agree to strengthen monitoring and verification of the Ministry’s plan through the use of on-board cameras in two tarakihi management areas that includes East Coast waters.

“I expect these cameras to provide coverage of a significant majority of catch by the end of 2020,” he said.

To have to instal on-board cameras while a quota management system to look after sustainability, and a new suite of initiatives that include electronic reporting and GPS positioning had already been implemented, was invasive and an additional cost to the industry and Gisborne Fisheries, Mr Zame said.

Although Ngati Porou Seafoods supported cameras on vessels where appropriate and practical, the key issue was the use and storage of information, Mr Ngata said.

“At a local fishery hui last year one member of the public said it would be good to be able to log on to an app and see commercial vessels working, like reality TV. This highlights the problem. Access to this type of information should be between the fisher or company and Ministry of Primary Industry and no one else.”

To mitigate a potential financial hit due to the 30 percent reduction in tarakihi TACC Gisborne Fisheries would look at focusing on other fish species and try to add more value to product that was already going into the factory.

Tarakihi was the most popular fish for consumers all over New Zealand so continuous supply would be a challenge, Mr Ngata said.

“I’m sure the larger players will increase the price of supply which will likely flow through to consumers at all outlets.”

Ngati Porou Seafoods would continue to provide sustainably-caught fish, he said.