Dunne and Dusted

Geoff SimmonsEnvironment, Fisheries Management

United Future underlined its dinosaur status yesterday with its “Outdoors” spokesperson’s response to our blog on Labour Party hopeful Janette Walker’s idea of licensing recreational fishers. The press release was full of falsehoods but the real question is whether United Future are secretly planning a Mugabe style nationalisation of the property rights of commercial fishers. Let’s start with their falsehoods:

Gareth Morgan, the Green benefactor who has ideas of aerially poisoning Stewart Island with 1080 – I am no Green Party benefactor if that is what you are insinuating. I have no political affiliations of any kind. I look at the issues, and back any politician that is willing to take a stand for what’s right. On Stewart Island, I have been advocating for Predator Free status, and DOC are looking at options of how to achieve that vision. There is no plan for aerial poison drops. Do some research if you want to be taken seriously.

Labour’s Ideas of licensing and charging all anglers and using the funds to buy quota – the idea of licensing was put forward by the Labour candidate for Marlborough but is not Labour policy, see speech here. And the idea of using funds to buy quota is our (Morgan Foundation’s) idea, not Labour’s or Janette’s. More on this below.

Janette Walker and Labour are talking about reducing recreational catches as commercial demand increases forcing anglers to buy back their rights to their fish. No one ever talked about this, because it is wrong, and reveals a total ignorance for how the quota management system works. Commercial demands are capped by the quota, they aren’t increasing. They have been capped for almost 30 years.

The source of increased pressure on fish stocks is actually from recreational fishers. There are more of us, we have more spare time (especially the baby boomers) and importantly better gear which mean the fish don’t stand a chance. The trouble is that there are only so many fish to go around. This is the same problem we saw earlier this year with snapper in the north, and we are seeing now with cod in the Marlborough Sounds.

So what do we do in the face of increasing recreational fishing pressure? Under the current system we will see the recreational bag limits reduced over time, or even fishing bans as we have seen in the Sounds. The farce over the slot fishery is just another symptom of the problem.

United Future’s answer seems to be to blame commercial fishers and they apparently plan to nationalise property rights (quota) from our commercial fishing industry:

United Future’s policy of recreational only fish species and recreational only fishing areas… it is about time we claimed our fish back… Our fish stocks and small coastal fishing fleet have been decimated by corporate manipulation of the quota system 

Does United Future have any evidence to back up their claims? No, but it won’t stop them from bashing business. Does Peter Dunne, supposed champion of the centre, really know what his spokesman is suggesting: a Mugabe-style grab of property rights from the commercial fishing industry? How do they justify this given commercial fishers have stuck to their quotas for almost thirty years? If a government tried this they would be taken to court and forced to buy back the quota from commercial operators to create these recreational only areas. United Future is living in dreamland.

We are proposing that recreational fishers buy back commercial quota, using the revenue raised from recreational licenses. This would allow rec fishers to work with commercial fishers (government wouldn’t need to be involved) to ensure that certain species were plentiful for rec fishers and certain areas were set aside for recreational fishing. This exact approach has worked in Australia and could easily work here. Janette is right – licensing is the answer to the increasing pressure on our fish stocks.

This press release by United Future is a blatant and desperate pander to redneck voters. If Peter Dunne wants to be taken remotely seriously in the future he needs to tell his “Outdoors spokesman” to pull his head in. Otherwise his career is Dunne and dusted.

If United Future want to get informed on these issues, I am happy to send them a free copy of our book Hook, Line and Blinkers. At the very least Outdoors expert Alan Simmons needs to get outdoors more often, he might learn enough to make an intelligent contribution then.

Dunne and Dusted was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Geoff Simmons
About the Author

Geoff Simmons

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Geoff Simmons is an economist working for the Morgan Foundation. Geoff has an Honours degree from Auckland University and over ten years experience working for NZ Treasury and as a manager in the UK civil service. Geoff has co-authored three books alongside Gareth.