Maori fishing business under threat from Ministry

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Maori fishing business under threat from Ministry set-net ban

Maori fishing business could suffer unfair economic setbacks if a Ministry of Fisheries proposal to extend a set-net ban to seven nautical miles goes ahead.

The proposed extension is aimed at providing further protection for the Hectors and Mauis dolphin from commercial set netting despite the fact that none of these dolphins have been caught in set nets since current restrictions were applied to the fishing industry seven years ago in 2003.

The Government is considering extending an existing set net ban along the West Coast of the North Island from four to seven nautical miles from shore, as well as a set-net ban in an area at the top of the South Island.

A further extension will have a detrimental economic effect on Maori fishing businesses, notably those iwi that own quota for rig and school shark in the affected areas, Te Ohu Kaimoana chief executive Peter Douglas says.

The majority, if not all, iwi affected by the extension have commercial arrangements with fishing vessels to catch their rig and school shark annual catch entitlements (ACE). The existing closures had an impact on Maori fishing businesses seven years ago and the proposed extension would further reduce the value of particular quota species for iwi.

Mr Douglas said that Te Ohu Kaimoana, as the marine environment and fisheries management specialists for iwi organisations, accepts that sustainability of the fisheries resource is paramount.

In the absence of a systematic approach including an assessment of the real risks being faced by Hectors and Mauis dolphins, it is too easy for decisions to be made under the guise of sustainability and for legitimate fishing business to suffer as a result, especially as not one dolphin has been caught since the 2003 restrictions were applied, Mr Douglas said.

Te Ohu Kaimoana urges the Minister to base his decision on science and on the evidence that under current restrictions, not one single dolphin has been caught since 2003. As the industry has stated before, you cannot catch fewer than none!

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