Fisheries Plan

There is concern within the commercial fishing industry as to what a Fisheries Plan is and over the past five years; just when the industry thinks it has established what they could embrace – the goal posts shift. To date no Fisheries Plan (in any fishery) has been approved by the Minister of Fisheries, which tends to suggest that there is doubt within the Ministry ranks as well. Are they Management Plans, Harvesting Strategies, Stock Strategies, Productivity Plans or something else – nobody has yet managed to discover what they really are.

Basically, the Ministry of Fisheries role is to guarantee the sustainability of fisheries. The principle tool they have if they are concerned about sustainability is to cut the quota to reduce the take.

Fisheries Plans have been talked about as operating in another realm – once sustainability is ensured they became the mechanism which allows local stakeholders to maximise productivity and utilisation through agreed management initiatives.

PauMac7 (the Commercial Paua Industry Association at the top of the South Island) is working collectively with MFish to try and develop a Fisheries Plan for their fishery. However we know that this cannot become a template for other regions as MFish have again changed direction with their definition of what a Fisheries Plan is.

What is a Fisheries Plan? Only time will tell….

Fine scale management and reporting

Micro Management of paua fisheries is the paramount way to increase productivity and PICL have been involved with the investigation of several ideas that rectify the biggest hurdle which is the difference in scale of fishing effort vs the scale of reporting.

The macro scale the industry currently report on is a major limitation to the implementation of fine scale management and until we overcome this we will never be able to fully unlock the potential our paua fisheries hold. Some of these ideas were demonstrated at the Paua Industry conference.

Collection of data at a very high resolution could allow the stock assessment process to become far more accurate as fisheries could be divided up into similar stratum (as opposed to collecting data from a few places and applying it to the whole fishery).

PICL are also involved in a project that is having a closer look at comparing fine scale management options on Stewart Island. The project is looking at reseeding vs closed areas vs increasing the minimum size limit vs fishing as normal.

 

Stock assessment process

Each Quota Management Area is in line for a Stock Assessment once every 3 to 10 years, depending on the perception of the health of that fishery. These are hugely expensive projects ($250,000) which are cost recovered from quota owners.

PICL is an active participant in the Shellfish Working Groups through which the Stock Assessment process is managed. The final output from these meetings is a report that MFish use to determine the status of stocks which leads to a decision whether an adjustment to the TAC is required. It should be noted that this is pretty much the limit of the Government’s involvement in fisheries management, do nothing, hope for the best and cut the TACC if it goes “pear shaped”!

The Paua Stock Assessment did not make it through this process as the working group did not consider it adequate to make any assessment of stock status. Had PICL and other industry players not intervened the Ministry would almost certainly have slashed the TACC by 30% (costing industry about $14 million) on the basis of poor stock assessment advice.

Another Stock Assessment for Paua was started this year and for the first time the industry had a say in the process of establishing the standards and specifications that NIWA have to operate to while doing these assessments. This is extremely important as there is little point going through the exercise and then have the assessment fail to get past the Shellfish Working group. Should this happen, the assessment will be re-run the following year and the industry is obliged to fund the second assessment.

PICL is looking seriously at the issue of legal redress for inadequate stock assessment work being billed to Industry.

PICL are active in reducing the need for stock assessments by building up the industries capacity to collect fisheries data as they are harvesting. Any industry work here has the potential to save substantial amounts of money as MFish contracted stock assessments are reduced in number.

Liaising with overseas abalone fisheries

There is so much that can be learnt from other abalone fisheries around the world.

PICL has now established links with many of these. A number of the issues we currently face are the same as those overseas fisheries are facing. In some cases they are ahead of us and in some NZ is ahead of them (for example we are much better placed in regard to Industry organisation and co-operation).

On the other hand in Australia the Government pour a lot of funding into fisheries management where the NZ government tends to be hands off. Much of the research and planning that they have developed could easily be adapted to NZ paua fisheries – some of these ideas where aired at the “Looking Ahead” Paua Industry conference 2005.

Liaising with Mfish

Since the establishment of PICL there has been a distinct improvement in the interaction between the paua industry and MFish officials and it appears that this will continue to improve as the advent of “joint cooperation” becomes more prevalent.

The paua industry is poised to make some giant strides with fisheries management and this would have been impossible if the relationships with MFish officials were not progressively strengthening and MFish made to understand that the paua industry had the capacity to “do the job”.

The number of MFish officials that attended the “Looking Ahead” Paua Industry conference 2005 was at an all time high which reinforces their desire to get more involved in a support role with the industry.

Supporting Paua MAC’s

PICL is available to assist PauaMacs and as an example PICL has been involved with PauaMacs in a supporting role assisting this PauaMac as it has struggled to get quota owner participation.

PICL has played a role in the Marine Reserve proposal at Nugget Point, the discussions that are occurring with Ngai Tahu re customary reserves, the setting up of the current CSO budgeting round and partaking in the series of industry meetings that were recently held to gauge the industries feeling on the status of each of the Paua stocks and what should be done towards the management of these fisheries.

Reseeding Co-ordination

PICL is available to assist PauaMacs and as an example PICL has been involved with PauaMacs in a supporting role assisting this PauaMac as it has struggled to get quota owner participation.

PICL has played a role in the Marine Reserve proposal at Nugget Point, the discussions that are occurring with Ngai Tahu re customary reserves, the setting up of the current CSO budgeting round and partaking in the series of industry meetings that were recently held to gauge the industries feeling on the status of each of the Paua stocks and what should be done towards the management of these fisheries.

 

Rights Protection

Marine Reserves

Marine Reserves (MR) and Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are taking a substantial amount of PICL’s time and resources but this is likely to be the biggest and most immediate threat on the horizon to the commercial paua fisheries where rights protection is concerned. Of all the fishing Industries affected by inshore area closures, paua is certain to be impacted most.

  • A number of workshops have been attended with SeaFIC and other Commercial Stakeholder Organizations to formulate plans to fight MR and MPA’s and ensure that the issues relevant to the paua industry are taken into account.
  • Background research, specialist advice and legal issues have been sought and assembled to build capacity in anticipation of assisting PauaMACs to handle future MR and MPA applications as they arise.
  • A detailed Industry submission on the MPA strategy has been prepared and tabled to Government.
  • Several meetings have been attended in support of Pau5 (with other Commercial Stakeholder Organizations and the Dept of Conservation) re the proposed Nugget Point reserve. These were attended at the request of PauaMAC5 and have successfully contributed to slowing the application considerably. PICL coordinated legal advice for the meetings which will help lay the groundwork for any future judicial review which might eventuate.
  • PICL has been active in co-coordinating with other Industry players, such as rock lobster, to face future threats.

Customary Reserves

These reserves are just starting to gather momentum and PICL is getting involved at the ground level to better understand the process and requirements of customary interests. Several meetings have been held in support of Pau5 with other Commercial Stakeholder Organizations in the lowers South Island and NgaiTahu. PICL has become involved at a regional level in Pau5 as it is seen as an opportunity to gain crucial experience in how to best work with Iwi when these issues arise in other areas.

Recreational Sector

ICL has spent time building a relationship with Option4, the most vocal and well organised of the recreational lobby groups. While increased pressure from the recreational sector is anticipated over the coming years Option4 see the commercial paua industry as being in a unique situation due to their ability to enhance paua fishstocks in the wild by re-seeding.

Compliance

The most pressing matter the industry has at this time is the level of poaching that is occurring. If the current levels of illegal take continue there could be anxious times ahead as the double impact of loss of fish stocks and competition in the market place from illegal product gets worse.

An industry Working Group comprised of MFish, PICL and TOKM/AFL representatives hasbeen established and it is now putting runs on the board.

The Minster of Fisheries has signed off the group’s first report and has committed additional resources including senior fisheries managers. The Minister has also instructed his officials on the working group to work collaboratively with the industry which is a real first and is completely new territory for MFish.

The Working Group is making very good progress working through an assessment framework that will prioritize initiatives to curb illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing of paua. Within the next few months various options will be floated to industry so the range of initiatives identified by the Working Group can be prioritized. These may include law changes for fishing, exporting and the way penalties are imposed.

Initiatives will also include making the detection of offending easier to recognize. Input from industry representatives has been incorporated into important compliance initiatives and decisions.