20 Aug 2013

Warning cut in snapper quota could lead to deaths

6:49 pm on 20 August 2013

Cutting the East Coast recreational snapper quota could lead to more boating fatalities, a veteran fisheries advocate says.

Des Subritzsky was in 2010 awarded the Queens Service Medal for years of conservation work on beaches and Kaipara harbour.

The former fisheries inspector says if people are allowed to catch only three snapper each, they'll head for Kaipara - on the rougher West Coast - where they can still catch nine.

Another possibility is that they'll load up their boats with extra people to increase their allowable catch, putting those on board at greater risk.

Many families in the north rely on snapper as part of their diet, and Mr Subritzsky is sceptical about Government claims the snapper fishery is in trouble.

Commercial fishers have told him the main reason they are not reaching their snapper quotas is that they're targeting other, more lucrative, species. But dumping also happens, and nets that allow small snapper to escape should be made compulsory, he says.

Meanwhile, former Labour MP Dover Samuels says the prospect of cuts to the recreational quota has united Maori and Pakeha fish lovers throughout the north.

Mr Samuels - who was once a commercial fisherman himself - still fishes but just to feed whanau and friends.

He says commercial fishing boats dump thousands of tonnes of fish every year, and there's been outrage at public meetings in Tai Tokerau that the Government is even thinking about slashing the personal limit.

It's the birthright of New Zealanders to be able to catch fish for the table, and that should always trump commercial interests, Mr Samuels says. As well, he believes Northland's east coast snapper fishery in is good heart.