Trawler claims unfounded says MPI
Concern has been expressed via a Mangawhai Facebook page recently, regarding the activity of commercial trawlers in Mangawhai waters before and after Christmas.
Members of the group voiced opinions about commercial and recreational over-fishing as well as suspicions regarding fishing vessels slinking closer to the coastline under the cover of darkness before returning to fish in legal waters during the day. However, Northland’s Chief Compliance Officer for Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) Phillip Tasker says he can confirm that there should be no trawling or Danish seining along Mangawhai shores between October 1 and April 1 and no vessel over 20 metres, either trawling or Danish seining, is actually allowed in the area at any time. (A Danish Seine consists of a conical net with two long wings with a bag where the fish collect. Drag lines extend from the wings, and are long so they can surround an area.)
“I have checked with our compliance officers with regards to claims about the presence of fishing trawlers in the Mangawhai area in the weeks leading up to Christmas… there was only one call made to them,” he says.
“Our people responded and found the vessel the caller described as a trawler was actually a scallop boat and no offending was occurring. Historically, the misidentification of vessel types is consistent with the calls we get about trawlers close in around Mangawhai and Bream Bay.”
Tasker says there is often conjecture about trawlers coming closer to shore at night but to date, is not aware of this happening and has not received any recent calls regarding the vessels impinging on the legal boundaries.
“Most vessels operating in this area are not trawlers… and we would be surprised if trawlers were committing this sort of offence because not only would they be easily identified by the public but also picked up by the various compliance measures we have,” he says. “Regardless of this, we would encourage people to report any sightings of concern to us.”
Legasea Support Team Member, Paul Brislen says the recreational fishing advocacy group receives multiple enquiries every summer from concerned recreational fishers regarding trawlers fishing too close to shore and within popular public fishing spots.
“Trawling often causes conflict with both recreational and customary fishers,” he says. “It’s seen to be putting the needs of commercial fishers ahead of everyone else.”
Brislen says when the fishing industry was first regulated in 1989, recreational and customary fishing was excluded from the quota system because the government of the day intended to develop a national recreational fishing policy, recognising the significance of non-commercial fishing to the country as a whole and communities like Mangawhai in particular.
“It become known as Moyle’s Promise after the Minister who suggested it. Unfortunately this policy wasn’t enshrined in law and so we have commercial fishers claiming ownership of the fisheries that belong to all New Zealanders,” he says. “We will be calling for action on this front during the lead up to the election this year because New Zealanders are tired of seeing the fishing industry ride roughshod over our traditional access to abundant fisheries.”
n To report suspected illegal fishing activity, phone MPI 0800 47 62 24.