Fisheries Compliance Q&A Part 2

Amateur fishing regulations are, for the most part, clear and simple to understand, but having said that, there are always some grey areas. Grant Dixon is sometimes asked to give his interpretation of the rules, quite often by people who have found themselves on the wrong end of an instant fine or a warning for relatively minor transgressions.

As a result of the above, along with some personal experiences, I compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions by fellow fishers seeking clarification and put them to the Ministry’s compliance team via their Senior Recreational Analyst and regular contributor Marty Bowers.

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Readers will no doubt recognise some of the following scenarios. I hope the Compliance team’s responses will provide clarity in some of the areas where there may have been doubt and help you all stay on the right side of the law. For the first set of scenarios, see the previous part.

Scenario 4: Crossing management area borders

Joe and a couple of mates leave Sandspit situated in CRA2 (allowance being three crayfish per person, telson clipping required) and head north to Bream Bay CRA1 (allowance being six crayfish, no telson clipping required). They get back to the ramp, having crossed back into CRA2 management area with their CRA1 limit of six crayfish each and are spoken to by Fisheries Officers.

What proof is required on behalf of the divers to show they acted within the regulations as they applied to the CRA1 management area where the crays were gathered?

MPI: The divers should take steps to prove they have taken their catch from CRA1 as where they land, CRA2 rules will be in effect.

They can track their activity on a GPS plotter to show they’ve been in CRA1 and where they were diving, photos at the time of taking and ensuring they have followed all other fishing rules will assist.

It’s often helpful if you put yourself in the place of the inspecting Fishery Officer and consider what would reassure you if you had to determine the fishing was legal.

Scenario 5: Accumulating scallops

Joe and two friends, one a non-diver, leave from their home at Hamilton for a multi-day trip to Port Charles at the top of the Coromandel, collecting a limit of scallops (20 per person per day) for each of three days they are away, which are shelled and stored in one large container – 180 scallops in all. The seafood is intended for a family gathering, but no permit has been obtained.

On their way home they come across an MPI compliance roadblock at Tapu and are questioned regarding the large number of scallops in their possession.

What is ‘best practice’ to prove they have acted within the law?

MPI: The group should check the rules before they head out on their trip. The rules change often and in this scenario the group might be disappointed when they get to the Coromandel because the east Coromandel scallop fishery was recently closed.

If the fishery was open, the group would need to demonstrate that the scallops were taken over the three days at the daily bag limit. Some supporting information such as where they stayed and were diving, separating and labelling each day’s take, and photographing their fishing activity would help.

The rules for the scallop fishery change often, so it’s essential you check the NZ Fishing Rules App before gathering them.

The rules for the scallop fishery change often, so it’s essential you check the NZ Fishing Rules App before gathering them.

Scenario 6: Filleting fish on board

Joe and his mates head out for a day’s fishing and before they return to the ramp, they fillet their catch to save time and mess when they get home. At the ramp they are met by the Fisheries compliance team. Are they potentially likely to face a fine because the length of the fish cannot be measured?

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How does Joe’s crew prove they acted within the law?

MPI: While it is not illegal to fillet your catch at sea, it does make it difficult to determine if the fish taken were near or under the minimum legal size. In these situations, it’s encouraged to either land the fish whole or take photos of the fish against a measure before you fillet them.

Scenario 7: Excess take permits

Another question that regularly comes up in discussions is around who can apply for a permit for excess take for a special occasion – tangi, wedding, birthday etc.

Do such permits only apply under the Customary Take Regulations and Maori only, or can any New Zealander apply for them?

MPI: An Authorised Representative or tangata kaitiaki/tiaki may issue a Customary Authority to take kaimoana outside of the Amateur Fishing Regulations to ANY person providing it’s in accordance with the requirements of the Regulations (subpart 5 of the Amateur Fishing Regulations 2013 or Fisheries [Kaimoana Customary Fishing] Regulations 1998).

The issuer must have authorisation of tangata whenua for the area that the authorisation relates to and the purpose should be consistent with the regulations.

Scenario 8: Determining ‘soft-shell’ crayfish

I asked the Compliance Team about what constitutes a ‘soft-shell’ crayfish. Fishers are not allowed to take crayfish when they are in the process of shedding their outer shells. The crayfish are particularly vulnerable at this time while their new shells, their main form of protection, harden up.

It is not an easy question to answer as it is quite subjective. The Ministry has indicated they will answer this query separately in due course.

The measure doesn’t lie. Keep one on the boat and use it to check your catch.

The measure doesn’t lie. Keep one on the boat and use it to check your catch.

In conclusion

The above is the ‘plain English’ interpretation of the questions and I thank the Ministry’s Compliance Team for these. The message is a clear one. The onus of proof is on the fisher to show they have taken the kaimoana in accordance with the law.

One of the handiest tools available to recreational fishers when it comes to proving their catch is legal is their mobile phone. It is a simple matter to download suitable charts and with the tracking function turned on, you have proof of location. The phones almost all incorporate a camera capable of taking high resolution images, so you can document the size and number of your catch.

More to the point, you don’t always have to ‘bin out’, especially on multi-day trips – limit your catch, don’t catch your limit. The most important thing is to take care of your catch, keeping it all iced down until you can process it.

When dealing with Fisheries Officers, just remember they are there protecting your, and your children’s, assets. If you have accidentally crossed the line, you are far more likely to be given a warning rather than a fine for any very minor breaches – as long as you pass the ‘attitude test’. Treat the officers with courtesy and you might be pleasantly surprised to find the attitude is reciprocated!

February 2022 - Grant Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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