In the holiday house on Mahurangi East (see my previous post about the lost car keys) I found an issue of the NZ Fishing World magazine. There was this “letter to editor” article about blue cod fishing in Marlborough Sounds inside. It caught my eyes because they used one of my pictures of blue cod to illustrate the topic.
Anyway, the main reason I am writing about the article is it introduces a new (at least for me) point of view into the unending discussion on who causes the decline of the coastal fisheries the most.
The author writes from the point of view of a commercial fishermen. I read and interpret the information from the point of view of a keen diver and an uneducated person. Please, keep that in mind while reading this.
I read many times it’s commercial fishing that destroys the fish population. Recreational fishermen catch only a fraction of the commercial catch. Spearos (people shooting fish underwater) catch even less. They catch a fraction of the recreational catch. That sounds reasonable and is, I reckon, supported by numbers.
The author of the article tries to point out there are cases when this is not correct. Here at New Zealand our commercial fisheries use the so called quota system. My limited understanding of the subject is there is a fixed amount of fish per species that can be commercially caught every year. That amount is distributed among the parties involved. The point of the system is no matter how many parties are involved, the maximum amount of the fish caught remains the same.
Recreational fishing is “a bag per a fisherman per a day” based. That means if we double the amount of fishermen, we can catch the double amount of fish within the same area. It is legal, even though it can be unsustainable. The author says that happened with the blue cod population in Marlborough Sounds. His proof is simple. When the recreational fishing was banned for a couple of years, the stocks recovered quite quickly. When the ban was removed, the population started to decline. The commercial fishing quotas remained unchanged during that period of time.
I personally oppose commercial methods of sea food harvesting in many cases. For example I would ban dredging sea floor for scallops completely and use divers instead. That would mean only the specimen of the legal size are caught and the habitats are preserved. Comparing to commercial methods I find recreational fishing almost harmless. However, I believe in this case the article makes a valid point regarding its potential issues.
Sometimes I meet recreational fishermen when I go / return from diving. Their eyes glow, the only thing they are interested in is if I meet “a good dish” underwater. I wish they experience an interaction with friendly and curious fish underwater. Perhaps they would understand fish are much more that just a swimming piece of meat. Perhaps they would become less eager to catch as many fish as the law permits and opt for catching only what they really need. Sometimes perhaps nothing?