Decisions on three fish species

The rock lobster catch in the fishery area between Auckland and East Cape will be more than halved in an effort to rebuild the seriously depleted stock.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has reviewed the total allowable catch (TAC) for three species across seven areas, for the fishing year starting 1 April. The decisions follow public consultation on sustainability measures for rock lobster, sea cucumber, and southern blue whiting. 

Mr Nash has reduced the rock lobster TAC in the Hauraki Gulf/Bay of Plenty area known as CRA2 and the Otago area known as CRA7. He has increased the rock lobster TAC in the Wellington/Hawke’s Bay area known as CRA4 and the Southern area CRA8.

The TAC for two sea cucumber stocks off the east coast of the South Island and Challenger Plateau/Nelson will be increased, along with the TAC for southern blue whiting on the Bounty Platform to the south of New Zealand.

Mr Nash says the rock lobster fishery in the CRA2 area, which stretches from Auckland to East Cape, is seriously depleted. “Decisive action is needed to rebuild the crayfish stock,” Mr Nash says.

The current TAC of 416.5 tonnes will be reduced to 173 tonnes. Commercial and recreational crayfish allowances will be reduced as a result. The total allowable commercial catch (TACC) will be reduced from 200 tonnes to 80 tonnes; the recreational allowance from 140 tonnes to 34 tonnes; and the estimate for ‘other mortality’, such as theft and blackmarket activity, is also revised downwards, from 60 to 42.5 tonnes.

The customary allowance of 16.5 tonnes is unchanged and was not part of the review. However in 2017 the customary catch was estimated to be well within the allowance.

The decisions are the first step in rebuilding the fishery. Further steps will be developed and implemented this year, including changes to the current recreational bag limit of six crayfish per person per day prior to October 2018,” Mr Nash says.   

“I have also asked MPI to ensure Fisheries Compliance staff have an increased focus on the CRA2 fishery to help minimise illegal take. Although the current estimate of illegal removals is highly uncertain, given the status of the fishery and the reductions in harvest levels to legitimate users, I do not want to see benefits of any rebuild going to those who are stealing from this fishery.

“When the stock has been rebuilt to a healthier level, we can reassess how best to share the fishery amongst iwi, recreational and commercial fishing interests.

“During consultation, a number of submissions called for the fishery to be closed to reflect its poor current status and allow the fastest period of rebuild. Closure of a fishery is a very significant step. Fisheries have been closed in the past. While there is no doubt the CRA2 stock is well below desired levels, the best available information suggests that it can increase by an amount and over a timeframe I consider reasonable.

“I will continue to monitor this fishery closely and if the number of crayfish does not improve sufficiently I may have to consider further measures at the next review,” Mr Nash says.

ENDS

This media statement is a summary of the formal decision. The full decision can be found on the MPI website here