Fishing rule changes welcomed

Fiordland Marine Guardians have welcomed changes to fishing rules for the Fiordland marine area.

The office of the Ministry for Oceans and Fisheries made an announcement yesterday regarding widespread changes to the area’s recreational fishing rules.

The rule changes were in response to growing concerns about stocks of popular species in the area including blue cod, groper, pāua and scallops.

Recreational fishing pressure has increased throughout Fiordland in recent years and has extended far beyond the main access points of Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

Guardians chairwoman Dr Rebecca McLeod said the Guardians wanted future generations to be able to enjoy the same experience that those before them had been fortunate to have.

This was not simply a case of holding the line.

In several instances, fish stocks needed to be rebuilt, and the only way to achieve that was to significantly reduce the overall level of fishing pressure in the fiords, she said.

The new rules were designed to encourage people to fish in places that could support a higher level of fishing effort.

The daily limits for individual species of finfish and shellfish had been reduced across the board and in many cases, limits for individual species were higher on the open coast than inside the fiords.

‘‘The overall limit was 30 finfish for the Fiordland marine area so the reduction in the open coast is now 20 and inside the fiords is 10,’’ Dr McLeod said.

On the open coast the daily limit for blue cod is 10, compared with a limit of one inside the fiords. It used to be three inside the fiords.

Fishing for blue cod in Milford Sound is still banned as is fishing for groper in internal waters.

Similarly, the daily limit for pāua is five on the open coast and two inside the fiords.

There are reductions in mixed-bag and single species limits for most species of shellfish and finfish.

There will be a new zone called "the Fiords" within each fiord which begins at a boundary across the entrance headlands of each fiord.

The tiered mixed-bag and single species limits aim to incentivise fishing in the more productive open coast areas.

The scallop and oyster fisheries will be closed throughout the Fiordland Marine Area. Rock lobster limits have not changed.

The Guardians have found the lack of hard fisheries data challenging in terms of making recommendations on the management of the fisheries.

Dr McLeod said the Guardians were encouraged by the development of the recreational fishing reporting app Mainland Catch, and innovations in research for monitoring fish stocks.

"If the fishing community gets on board and reports their catch, we will be in a strong position to review these rules in five years’ time."

Fiordland fishing guide Chris Reygaert said any regulations that helped the fisheries was great and if the authorities thought they needed protecting and numbers needed to be looked at then it was a good thing.

By Nina Tapu