The first steps of Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy’s initiative to ensure snapper stocks remain healthy for future generations has kicked into gear with filming cameras being installed on trawlers in the Snapper 1 fishery.
One quarter of all trawlers operating in the Snapper 1 fishery have had cameras or observers operating since December 1.
Snapper are not only in the spotlight again, they’re also on film.
Nathan says the information gathered will give recreational anglers reassurance that commercial fishers are following the rules.
“In general most [commercial fishers] are [following the rules], but it will now be much tougher to break the law and get away with it.”
No cameras have been installed on any Tauranga-based vessels yet, but a four-month trial on four vessels is due to start soon.
Two different types of cameras are to be tested to determine which is suitable for recording information.
MPI is funding set-up costs for the initial camera trials until one of the two camera types are confirmed. During the process, the ministry will also develop and refine review processes. The set up of the cameras and the trial will cost about $500,000.
Monitoring systems are estimated to be on every vessel by October 1, 2015.
Nathan says it is the beginning of a large scale monitoring programme for the Snapper 1 fishery. In the 2011/2012 fishing year there were 19 trawlers operating in the area.
“It is one of the key initiatives I announced in September this year to ensure the stock is well looked after for future generations,” says Nathan.
“This is New Zealand’s most valuable shared fishery and we all need to work together to improve its health.”
A three week programme has also been set up by MPI for employees to obtain the skills needed to be an observer on the vessels.
A decision is then based on the coverage plan and availability of the employees. There is currently a pool of about 90 observers from around the country on hand when needed.
Nathan recently visited a commercial vessel in Auckland to see the new camera technology fitted in person.
“This programme will provide greater information on the total commercial catch, particularly on the numbers of small snapper being caught and the size, age, location and timing of commercial catch generally.”
The introduction of a $7 million scientific tagging survey is underway, and it will be up and running before October 1, 2014.
According to an MPI, the survey will determine the number and biomass of snapper in the Snapper 1 fishery. The report also says the information gathered is important to assess stocks and improve confidence in the results.
Mandatory vessel monitoring systems on all commercial vessels are also planned to be running by this date. An earlier report stated the $7million dollar bill will be split 50/50 between the Government and the commercial sector.
Nathan says he is pleased the fishing industry is also developing a ‘move on’ rule, where fishers will have to move on from a fishing spot if too many juvenile fish are being caught.
Members of the new Snapper 1 Strategy Group will soon be announced, who will develop a long-term plan to manage the fishery.
Sir Ian Barker has already been appointed to chair the group, with a total of seven members involved. Two members will represent the commercial fishing sector and another two will represent the recreational sector.
The reduction in bag limit and increase in minimum size for snapper is still on track for April 1, 2014, and the Total Allowable Catch is still set to rise by 500 tonnes to 8050.