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Sustainability factor in tarakihi catch on hold

A High Court ruling that East Coast tarakihi catch limit decisions must put sustainability before the commercial interests of the fishing industry has been put on hold.

In a decision released on September 1, Justice Cheryl Gwyn issued a stay of proceedings on the ruling, after an appeal by Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Limited.

Justice Gwyn said it was appropriate to grant the stay until the Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker had the opportunity to consider an updated stock assessment.

In June, Forest and Bird won a High Court case challenging the 2019 decision of then Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash to limit commercial fishing of tarakihi by 10 percent.

This was on top of a 2018 decision by Minister Nash that the limit be 20 percent.

In her June ruling, Justice Gwyn directed the 2019 decision on catch limits remain because to set it aside would mean the catchment levels would revert to the higher levels set in 2018.

“This means that the current catch settings for the fishery remain in place. The stock is projected to increase under these settings,” Fisheries New Zealand director of fisheries management Emma Taylor said.

In its appeal, Fisheries Inshore said while the stay would enable the Minister's decision to be reconsidered with clarity, it would not interfere with the stock rebuild.

It would also prevent economic damage to the commercial fishers.

Fisheries Inshore also submitted that Forest and Bird would not be “injuriously affected” by the stay.

“We will develop new proposals for consultation next year, so a decision can be made in time for the October 1, 2022 fishing year. These will utilise the best available information including results of a stock assessment for East Coast tarakihi that is expected to be finalised later this year,” Ms Taylor said.

Other parties supporting the Fisheries Inshore appeal were the Minister of Fisheries and Te Ohu — a representative body that has particular legal roles and responsibilities on behalf of iwi and Maori.

The Minister wanted to ensure the new total allowable catch (TAC) and total allowable commercial catch (TACC) decisions were made with the benefit of the best available information and the stock assessment will not be available until at least November.

There was no urgent need for the settings to be adjusted from a sustainability perspective, the Minister's submission stated.

Te Ohu also confirmed that a stay would enable additional time for consultation, input and participation from both Te Ohu and tangata whenua.

Not granting the stay would inevitably reduce the TAC/TAAC for East Coast tarakihi and cause irreversible economic loss for both Te Ohu and iwi, who have significant interests in East Coast tarakihi, Te Ohu submitted.

Forest and Bird opposed the application for the stay, saying it was not the organisation itself that may be subject to injurious effect, but rather it was the public interest in rebuilding the fish stock that was relevant.

The organisation said while fisheries management was “iterative”, new information for management would often be produced at some point in the future and the “best available information” was the best information currently available.

It also said that no adequate explanation was given for why this year's stock assessment would not be completed in time to be factored into a decision by October this year.

The organisation feared that even with any attempts by the Minister to make up time for rebuilding the stocks, there would still be an overall delay.