Student management

Increase snapper size limit, save species, student says

A high school graduate who has spent three years researching the local fishery has urged MPs to raise commercial size limits for harvesting snapper from 25cm to 30cm.

Chris Williams, a graduate of Takapuna Grammar School, said protecting snapper populations and marine biodiversity would require some changes.

Williams addressed a select committee today and said he had conducted research using more than 30 sources, including reports from Niwa and interviews with industry experts.

Its recommendations included buying out all commercial quotas or banning commercial fishing in the inner Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

He said all commercial vessels should have industry-funded cameras on board and the Ministry of Primary Industries should be able to monitor the cameras.

Williams said obvious size limit changes were needed for snapper and trevally.

“Frankly, no finfish should be harvested below a size at which they are fully sexually mature.”

Williams said a 30cm snapper produced five times more eggs than a sexually mature 25cm snapper.

But not all snappers were ready to breed when they reached 25cm, he said.

Williams also suggested phasing in a three percent royalty on all commercial fishing revenue over the next decade.

‘If our fisheries are managed properly they should be a huge source of income and enjoyment for all of us,’ he told the Petitions Committee today.

National’s Simon Watts, MP for North Shore, asked about finfishing and the links between size limits and fish maturity.

Williams said his research took reproductive rates into account and his suggestions would lead to more fish in the ocean and greater genetic stability.

“Larger population sizes are…generally more resilient to other external factors, whether it’s climate change or selection pressures, like us.”

Nelson MP Rachel Boyack from Labour, said her hometown had a large fishing port and she wanted to hear more about the proceedings on board the cameras.

Williams mentioned that last year Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said up to 300 inshore fishing vessels would receive cameras by the end of 2024.

He said it was a good start and should help protect some endangered species such as Hector’s dolphin.

MPI director of fisheries management Emma Taylor said the department at this stage had no plans to change the size limits.

Taylor pointed to the recreational daily bag limit rules that went into effect today.

The rules for daily limits on fish caught for recreational purposes now include species that previously had no limit.

Parker said last month that of more than 1,000 species of fish, only 43 were previously subject to a daily recreational fishing limit.

Baitfish and specified freshwater eels still had their own separate limits – six freshwater eels per person per day and 50 specified baitfish per person per day.

National’s Jacqui Dean, MP for Waitaki, said she was concerned about blue cod catch quotas in the south of the country.

Meanwhile, the Fisheries Bill had its first reading in the House of Representatives.

Parker said the bill would strengthen and modernize New Zealand’s fisheries management system to create a more sustainable and higher value fishing model.

He also said it would better encourage commercial fishing practices or good commercial fishing practices.

The bill proposed to introduce new offenses and graduated rules to improve the effectiveness of on-board cameras.

“We want to ensure the long-term health and resilience of our ocean and coastal ecosystems, including the role of fisheries,” said Labor MP for Te Tai Tonga Rino Tirikatene.

Green Party List MP Eugenie Sage said faster deployment of cameras on boats was needed.

“It is not enough to prioritize the Māui dolphin fishery due to concerns about the impact of trawling on Māui,” she said.

National supported the bill but had some concerns.

“Most Kiwis would agree that a sustainable ocean environment is something we should all aspire to have,” said Waikato National MP Tim van de Molen.

But he said there should be a discussion about changing the rules about what fish should be landed and what should be returned.