Time to address a longstanding fisheries problem

Dr Randall Bess
Insights Newsletter
24 March, 2017

Einstein once said that we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

The thinking behind the management of New Zealand’s recreational fisheries is a case in point. It began decades ago as a hands-off approach when recreational fishing was a marginal activity that did not pose much of a threat to fish stock sustainability.
The management thinking has largely remained hands-off, despite continual increases in demand for recreational fishing, along with competition with commercial fishing, leading to localised depletion of several fish stocks important to recreational fishers. And we have ongoing political fights over the allocation of decreasing total catch levels.  
Our first report, What’s the Catch?, warns that the thinking of the past will not solve the fisheries problems we face today.
In our second report, The Overseas Catch, to be released early April, we discuss alternative ways of thinking about competition for limited fisheries resources and conflicts between fishing sectors.
The report focuses on the management of recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, British Columbia, northern California and Western Australia and their lessons for New Zealand.

The Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery shows us the disruption that can happen when recreational fishers encounter failed management. New Zealand can head in the same direction if we do not act soon.
The northern California recreational-only red abalone fishery is an intriguing example of citizen science, or, in this case, recreational divers’ knowledge and time on the water being integrated into abalone management.
British Columbia and Western Australia provide some valuable lessons on allocating total catch levels and administrative and market-based mechanisms for reallocating over time.
Western Australia has also devised unique arrangements that have changed the relationships between competing fishing sectors and the Department of Fisheries.
In May, The New Zealand Initiative will lead a ‘fisher exchange’ to Western Australia, with a group of New Zealanders to learn first-hand about its challenges and successes.
What we learn in Western Australia and elsewhere will be useful in debating the future state that we want for New Zealand’s recreational fisheries.
These lessons are timely. The Ministry for Primary Industries’ Future of our Fisheries review is taking place over the next two years.
Hopefully the overseas lessons will help us achieve our shared goals of greater fish stock abundance, fair and equitable allocations and a better recreational fishing experience. 

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates