Best practice fisheries management
When then Independent Newspapers head Mike Robson was urged to buy the NZ Fishing News magazine he wrinkled his nose and said it was full of dead fish.
Mike, a golfer, did not get fishing.
But urged on by his offsider Rick Neville, who catches a lot of fish, the magazine was added to the INL stable.
Nearly 20 years later Mike has passed on, INL has been swallowed by Fairfax, Rick still catches lots of fish on his way out to Waiheke and Fishing News is still full of pictures of dead fish.
So, too, is nzfisher, this month celebrating its 50th issue.
So on that evidence New Zealand’s recreational fishery is in good heart.
Given we are both in the business of catching fish, we invited Fishing News editor Grant Dixon to speak at last month’s Seafood NZ annual conference and flew him to Wellington.
His brief was to give the recreational perspective on our shared fishery and on building bridges between the commercial and recreational sectors.
Grant previewed his talk in his editorial in the September issue of his magazine.
It begins: As you read this, I will have delivered an address to the Seafood NZ conference in Wellington. I may or may not be in one piece!
He need not have feared. Commercial fishers are gentle folk who respect others’ views.
Some were sorely tested though. Grant struggled at times to be conciliatory and harked back to the overfishing and collapse of fisheries such as oysters at the turn of the century. That’s the 20th century. And Bluff oysters seem to be doing pretty well now.
Grant’s thesis is that inshore fisheries are on the brink of collapse, akin to Cold War nuclear annihilation, that we need an abundant fishery rather than maximum sustainable yield, that recreational fishers don’t get a fair go, are actively discriminated against in some areas and there is no such thing as a shared fishery.
The contrast with Gone Fishin’s Graeme Sinclair, who spoke before him, was marked.
Graeme’s catch phrase is Gifts and Gains, that is looking to compromise and ease tensions rather than throwing stones.
But being a good journalist Grant does want to be balanced, albeit within the confines of his electorate, and offered to cover some wider viewpoints.
The sort of stories we would like to see include the healthy state of our fish stocks as outlined by Dr Pamela Mace, MPI principal fisheries science adviser, at the conference Grant attended and as detailed in the current Seafood magazine.
And last week there was more good news in that a 12-month MPI monitoring programme in the snapper 1 fishery centred on the Hauraki Gulf found commercial fishers are catching only a tiny percentage of undersized fish.
The figure was just 3.3 per cent, much less than previously thought.
The way is now clear for responsible recreational fishers to record their catches in line with best practice.
The commercial fishing industry is behaving responsibly, is becoming more transparent and is protecting the resource.
Some wider recognition of that would not go amiss.
There are still plenty of fish in the sea, despite the doomsayers’ claims. The scientific evidence and all those magazine trophy pictures confirm that.
The Fishing News also had a shock for me – an obituary on Shane Kelly, dead of cancer at just 59.
Known to some as Belly on account of his girth, Shane was a character of the first order.
We worked together as reporters on the Melbourne Sun in the 1970s, when heavy boozing at the Phoenix in Flinders St was part of the job description.
We caught up again in London where he worked on a yachting magazine and in Auckland where he edited Sea Spray and then set up a marine-based PR company.
Then there was the mid winter fishing contest at Cooks Beach on the Coromandel where Shane cleaned up on the snapper.
But we drifted apart and I never did see Shane play in his rock band Retros at Swashbucklers or share in more mad adventures involving fish, Steinlager and smokes.
Like many who love fishing and the sea, recreational and commercial, Shane was a good bugger.
His untimely death is a reminder that if you have not seen a once close friend for many years, give them a call before it is too late.