Recreational fishers are calling for an independent review of the fisheries management system as crayfish stocks hit crisis levels.
The call comes as a response to declining crayfish numbers in the CRA2 region extending from Pakiri through the Hauraki Gulf to the East Cape, which are at an all-time low.
The latest official assessment shows the crayfish population has been in decline for many years, and at the start of the current fishing year the amount of legal crayfish in the water represented 5 per cent of what was available before large scale fishing.
In the Hauraki Gulf, several scientists recently described crayfish as “functionally extinct” and unable to carry out their natural function, yet MPI has continued with its laissez faire, hands off stance.
Now, MPI is calling for input on several options for the future management of CRA2 and the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, along with LegaSea, and needs your help to submit a response by February 9.
Spokesman Scott Macindoe says the time for action is now.
“This is exactly the sort of situation we've been warning about with regard to the Quota Management System.
“The QMS is allowing industrial fishing to take place without effective governance from the Ministry that is charged with managing marine resources on behalf of all New Zealanders. Instead, MPI has stood back while the fishery has declined to the stage where even experienced divers struggle to find even one legal crayfish.”
Scott says there are increasing reports of recreational fishers not even bothering to fill their tanks and look for crayfish in the past few summers.
Last year, 78 per cent of survey respondents told LegaSea that the size and availability of crayfish in the CRA2 region was either decimated or close to it.
There was majority support for a seasonal or total closure to rebuild crayfish stocks. In response to public pressure the then Minister brought a management review forward by a year in an acknowledgement that current management had failed.
“Last year we said the situation was reaching crisis point – now we have the Ministry conducting a consultation process and only giving the public 18 working days to respond.
“LegaSea and the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council are asking members of the public to tell the Minister just what they believe needs to be done to save this fishery.”
Commercial fishers have doubled their cray potting effort over the past 16 years and yet they are catching fewer crays now than what they were at the beginning of the 21st century.
By all independent measures the stock is collapsing, yet MPI and the National Rock Lobster Management Group have until now adopted temporary measures and a watch and see approach. Recreational fishers want action now.
“This isn't about recreational and customary rights versus commercial rights, it's about ensuring sustainability and healthy ecosystems taking priority, and it's about protecting the resource for future generations. We need to stop this madness in CRA2.
“Recreational fishers have developed a manifesto that encompasses a new way forward. We need a total overhaul of the Quota Management System and we need a new way to oversee New Zealand's fisheries.”
LegaSea is repeating its call for a Commission of Inquiry into the state of fisheries management in New Zealand.