After two years of planning and research, we now know what recreational fishing is worth to the New Zealand economy. Kiwis spend nearly a billion dollars a year on recreational fishing, but the benefits don’t stop at the fish on the end of the line.
This expenditure ripples through the economy, generating a total of 1.7 billion dollars in economic activity, supporting over 8000 jobs and contributing at least $638 million to New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product.
This research demonstrates how the economy around recreational fishing is responsible for enhancing the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
These results must be welcome news for our decision-makers and treasurers. At last, some positive news to counteract diminishing tax returns from the farming and business sectors being crushed by falling commodity prices.
Government policy makers also have something to celebrate. The recently released report, ‘Recreational Fishing in New Zealand – A Billion Dollar Industry,’ provides enough evidence to support a recalibration of monetary focus, from low rent, bulkharvesting fishing practices to high-value recreational uses of abundant fisheries.
For example, a fly-fishing expedition targeting kahawai as part of a lodge package, and where most caught fish will also be released, must be more attractive and sustainable than wiping out entire schools to sell for a pittance between $1.30 and $1.60 per kilo whole frozen, with no added value or GST to foreign shores. Add on a snorkelling trip, dolphin watching, a Maori cultural experience or local wine tour, and we are getting into bonus territory of having high abundance and diversity in our marine waters.
Tourism is the fastest-growing sector in the New Zealand economy. More people are arriving, staying longer, and spending more. We need to be making the most of our opportunities to offer low-impact marine recreation experiences for domestic and international visitors.
The only handbrake is current fisheries management policy, which tries to maximise catch and largely ignores environmental factors to maintain bulk exports of our fish.
Having information on the size and value of the recreational fishing industry and the jobs this supports will help to refocus the compass onto the best use of our marine resources. This change in policy direction will only come about if based on sound economics and renewable sources of income, and this latest report provides that evidence in bucket loads.
Relative to spending on other forms of recreation, it’s clear that people are willing to spend a lot of money on their fishing. For many fishers their boat is a major purchase; add on marina fees and/or a heavy-duty towing vehicle, and we have a convoy of money changing hands.
People also like to fish when on holiday. This activity drives money out of the main centres and into the regions, supporting much-needed jobs and businesses in coastal communities.
Last year a similar report showed that recreational fishing contributed AUS$3.4 billion to the New South Wales economy, generating over 14,000 jobs. Australian politicians are now scrambling to maximise their voter appeal by announcing a range of projects to support recreational fishing. One such proposal is to spend $35 million in NSW to: phase out commercial netting; increase fish stocks; improve recreational fishing, boating and club facilities; and increase the numbers of recreational fishers by 25% to one million by 2020. How good is that?
Recreational fishing is a winner on a personal, regional and national level. Adding a fishing experience to a tourist’s enjoyment of New Zealand’s other natural wonders (and hobbits) would be an easy sell. After all, New Zealand has been the reputed ‘Anglers Eldorado’ since Zane Grey’s book in the 1920s.
Ninety years later, we need a government committed to restoring abundance and diversity, so we can maximise the value of our precious marine resources.
A central theme to the four recent management submissions to the Ministry for Primary Industries is the need for more precautionary management of our fish stocks.
The minister’s decisions, announced on March 17, are a mixed bag, with cuts to commercial catch limits for selected scallop and crayfish stocks, and significant increases in surf clam catch limits around the South Island.
Nathan Guy deserves a bouquet for making a conservative decision in reducing the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) applying in CRA4, the crayfish stock spanning Hawkes Bay to Wellington.
A 50% reduction in the TACC for Coromandel scallops will not constrain ongoing commercial effort, as the average landings over the past eight years have been 47 tonnes. There is still no intention to ban the Victorian box dredges, so the continued destruction of scallop beds is a serious concern.
A brickbat is appropriate for his decisions on deemed value rates for surf clams in the South Island, and for granting TACC increases of between 94 and 700% for four species of surf clams, with little supporting information that these catch limits are sustainable over time.
In our submission we urged the minister to hold off on any TACC increases until a management and research plan was developed to guide future management of deepwater tuatua, triangle shell, large trough shell and ringed dosinia.
While these species are unfamiliar to many recreational fishers, they are an integral part of the food chain, and these stocks have suffered from ongoing, deliberate, excessive commercial harvest.
This cynical harvesting strategy over the past few years is concerning local residents in Cloudy Bay, Marlborough. Many of these people are so intimidated by the constant to and fro of commercial harvesters in the surf zone that they no longer feel safe in fishing from the beach.
In his decision letter, the minister refers to the loss of amenity values and says, ‘…these issues are beyond the scope of my consideration as part of the April 2016 sustainability round’.
We disagree and wholeheartedly support the people of Cloudy Bay.
The minister is obliged to uphold the purpose and principles of the Fisheries Act 1996 to both ensure the fisheries are sufficiently abundant to meet future generations’ needs, and to provide enough abundance so people can provide for their current social, economic and cultural wellbeing.
The people of Cloudy Bay have been ignored in favour of a private enterprise that has cynically over-harvested surf clams, with no meaningful penalties for exceeding the legal limits. Instead, they are rewarded with a catch-limit increase, adding another casualty to the litany of mismanaged fish stocks in our fabled ‘world-leading’ Quota Management System.
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