The thin end of recreational licensing

The long dispute over catch levels in New Zealand between commercial and recreational fishing has a possible solution that will require changes by both parties.

A group of New Zealanders involved in the recreational, commercial and customary fishing sectors were shown how Western Australia has obtained collaboration between competing fishing sectors.

It involves licensing recreational fishers.

“New Zealand’s fisheries management has been increasingly contentious. But Western Australia has widespread public support for the way it manages recreational fisheries,” says Dr Randall Bess from the New Zealand Initiative.

The fisher exchange brought the New Zealanders together with representatives of the Western Australia Department of Fisheries, the Recreational and Sport Fishing Council – called Recfishwest – and the Fishing Industry Council – known as WAFIC. The trip was sparked by Dr Bess’ research into overseas fisheries management, published earlier this year in ‘The Overseas Catch: The state of recreational fisheries management abroad’.

“What stands out about Western Australia is their unique governance arrangements for managing fisheries,” says Randall.

“There are clearly defined roles for Recfishwest, the group representing recreational fishing interests, and WAFIC, which represents commercial interests. These arrangements include both organisations receiving funds to carry out their roles.

“This means they are recognised by the Government as the peak bodies or central points of contact and referral for sector-level issues. Most importantly, these arrangements have changed intersectoral dynamics for the better.”

Throughout the exchange the New Zealand fishers discussed a range of fisheries management challenges and opportunities shared in common with the Western Australians, says Nathan Reid of Moana NZ.

“We were particularly interested in discussing how their sector-level differences and similarities entice them to work together to find solutions that benefit both sectors,” says Nathan. “We are under no illusion; they continue to have their differences, but it is how they approach their differences that leads to improved management.”

The discussions covered what all fishing sectors face, says Geoff Rowling from Our Fishing Future. Such as finding the best surveys methods for collecting catch and effort data on recreational fishing, ways to use smartphone apps for catch reporting, and how to reallocate catch levels between sectors as social values change.

“We also discussed the thorny issues Western Australia has addressed, such as recreational fishing licences funding Recfishwest, levies funding WAFIC and reducing commercial catches in areas of conflict,” says Geoff.

“Recreational licence funds are also used for projects and research that benefit recreational fishing, such as re-stocking snapper and buying out commercial fishing licences. The public accepts recreational licence fees because they see the benefits for recreational fishing.”

The next step is to support the debate with the release of the fisheries project’s next report, says Randall. The report will set out policy recommendations reflecting the views of the New Zealanders who participated in the exchange. These recommendations are intended to stimulate public debate.

“The insights and lessons we learned in Western Australia are very beneficial for us in debating what we want for the future of New Zealand’s recreational fisheries,” says Randall. “It is important that we plan for the future and in ways that uphold the rights associated with commercial quota holdings and Treaty obligations.”

While the fisher exchange participants have some shared views about how to change fisheries management for the better, any meaningful change needs to reflect the views of the wider public – which is why The New Zealand Initiative and the fisher exchange participants are holding public meetings up and down the country later this year.

“We want to hear the public’s views so we can bring about the type of change that has the public’s support,” says Randall.

After consultation the recommendations will be finalised and presented to the new government by the end of the year.

The participants in the fisher exchange to Western Australia are: Sir Mark Solomon (Te Ohu Kai Moana), Dave Turner (Ministry for Primary Industries), Keith Ingram (New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council), Margaret Wind (New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council), Geoff Rowling (Our Fishing Future), Laws Lawson (Te Ohu Kai Moana, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand), Dr Jeremy Helson (Fisheries Inshore New Zealand), Chris McKenzie (NIWA), Nathan Reid (Moana New Zealand) and Dr Randall Bess (The New Zealand Initiative).

The New Zealand Initiative is an evidence-based think tank and research institute.


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