Fear of mataitai plan

Rebecca Dickson and Ethan Wilson try their luck yesterday in the Steamer Basin, one of the few...
Rebecca Dickson and Ethan Wilson try their luck yesterday in the Steamer Basin, one of the few spots in Otago Harbour not affected by a mataitai application. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

Recreational anglers are being urged to stand up for their right to fish how and where they want in Otago Harbour.

The call by recreational fishing representative Warren Lewis comes as an amended proposal for a mataitai (a customary fishing reserve) for Otago Harbour is put out for consultation.

It follows an application - first made in 2008 covering the majority of the harbour - which had been in limbo at the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) since consultation was completed in 2009.

MPI spatial allocations manager David Scranney said the delay was due to the ministry approving Southern Clams' application for research trials on commercial cockle harvesting in the harbour.

The amended application, lodged in March by Te Runanga o Otakou, excludes the two areas from where Southern Clams harvests clams, as well as the original six areas listed, including the Steamer Wharf and Careys Bay, which allow for commercial fishing activity.

Runanga mataitai committee chairman Tangi Russell, who is also the MPI-appointed tangata tiaki or caretaker of the harbour, said recreational anglers had nothing to fear from the application.

''We are not out to stop any recreational fishing in the harbour at all.''

All the runanga wanted to do was preserve the harbour as it was and manage the fishery ''the best we can according to our cultural values''.

Mr Lewis, who represented recreational anglers on a consultative group regarding the Moeraki mataitai, warned the methods used by anglers to fish, such as set netting, and how many fish they could catch in the harbour could be under threat.

''This is what could happen if the recreational sector does not get off their backside. The endangered species could be the recreational fisherman.''

Recreational fishing could not be banned under a mataitai, as commercial fishing could, but it did allow for bylaws to be made that could restrict catches and methods of fishing.

He was ''fearful'' the value of the harbour's recreational fishery would not be recognised as fishing groups had not been informed of the amended application or consulted as they had been when it was originally proposed in 2008.

They now only had a month to make a submission.

New Zealand Salmon Anglers' Association Otago branch chairman Wayne Olsen said a mataitai could be a good thing for the harbour, as long as there was no intention to take control of recreational fishing.

''It [the salmon fishery] is to be accessed freely by the wider community.''

He hoped the group would be consulted and it would certainly put its view at any meetings that were being held.

The 2008 Otakou runanga application was opposed by four out of five submitters, mostly commercial fishing groups.

Southern Clams operations manager Dave Redshaw said because the company had only received notification of the amendment on Friday, it had not had time to thoroughly research its implications, especially on possible future uses of the harbour.

''Initially, we are pleased they've taken into account our work and operations in the harbour.''

It was ''early days'' and the company hoped there would be meetings or consultation to allow those issues to be discussed, he said.

In principle, the company supported a mataitai, but wanted to ensure it allowed future use of the harbour.

Port Chalmers Fishing Co-operative president Ant Smith said while supportive of sustainable fishing, the co-operative did not back the last application because of its restrictions on commercial fishing.

It had yet to see the amended application, but if it allowed for specific commercial fishing endeavours and the general public supported it, the co-operative probably would, too, he said.

The only other mataitai in Otago covered an area around the Moeraki peninsula.

MPI could not comment on the consultation process yesterday.

Submissions to MPI close on July 28.



A mataitai

• An identified traditional fishing ground established for the purpose of customary food gathering.

• Will exclude commercial fishing within its boundaries.

• Will not exclude recreational fishing.

• Will not require recreational fishers to obtain permits or prevent non-Maori from fishing.

• Will not prevent access to beaches or rivers not on private land.

• Allows for bylaws to be recommended to MPI relating to the species of fish, aquatic life, or seaweed that may be taken, the quantity, areas and method.

Source: Ministry of Fisheries


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