A guide to Section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996
Temporary Closures and Method Restrictions
Why do we need temporary closures/method restrictions?
Tangata whenua have rights to manage and take fish to meet their customary needs. The Crown has an ongoing obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to recognise and provide for these rights. The temporary closure provision of the Fisheries Act 1996 seeks to do this by improving the numbers or size of fish in an area or by recognising customary fishing practices. Temporary closures and method restrictions are to help manage the impact of commercial and recreational fishing on customary fisheries.
Customary fishing regulations will soon allow for Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki to oversee customary food gathering. However, the customary regulations do not provide for tangata whenua to manage commercial and recreational fishing outside of mataitai reserves.
Temporary closures/method restrictions
Section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996 allows the Minister of Fisheries to temporarily close an area to fishing, or to restrict a method of fishing, in order to provide for the use and management practices of tangata whenua in the exercise of their non-commercial fishing rights.
Temporary closures and method restrictions will give legal support to voluntary rahui which have always been used by tangata whenua to manage their fisheries. Section 186A is designed to respond to local depletion of fisheries resources which may be affecting the ability of tangata whenua to catch fish for customary purposes.
Temporary closures and mataitai reserves - what is the difference?
Mataitai reserves are part of the customary fishing regulations. Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki manage mataitai reserves using bylaws that apply to all individuals. Mataitai reserves are permanent and the bylaws can change over time depending on the state of the fish stocks in the reserve and the aims of the Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki.
Temporary closures and method restrictions are both a support for mataitai reserves, and an alternative to a mataitai reserve, depending on the circumstances to be addressed.
Who would a temporary closure or method restriction apply to?
Temporary closures and method restrictions are made by the Minister and apply equally to everyone; including customary, recreational and commercial fishers. There are no exceptions to this rule. Closures are not permanent, lasting no more than two years.
Who can ask for a temporary closure or method restriction?
Anybody can suggest to the Ministry of Fisheries that a temporary closure or method restriction be put in place. However, before closing an area or restricting the use of a fishing method, the Minister of Fisheries must be satisfied that the measure will help tangata whenua in the exercise of their non-commercial fishing rights.
Is consultation required?
Yes, before putting a temporary closure or method restriction in place the Minister must consult with representatives of all those that have an interest in the fishery. This may include environmental, commercial, recreational and local community interests as well as tangata whenua.
What is the role of tangata whenua?
The Minister must provide for the input and participation of tangata whenua in the decision making process and have particular regard to kaitiakitanga (the ethic of guardianship in accordance with tikanga Maori). This means that the Minister of Fisheries will need to work closely with the tangata whenua when making a temporary closure or method restriction.
Before placing a restriction on a fishing method, the Minister must also be satisfied that the method is having an adverse effect on the customary use and management practices of tangata whenua. Information provided by tangata whenua about their use and management practices will be necessary for the Minister to make a decision about any proposal to close a fishery or restrict the use of a fishing method.
What is the time frame for a temporary closure or method restriction?
Closures or restrictions may be in force for any length of time up to a maximum of two years, with the potential for an extension of up to a further two years. Closures or restrictions may also apply seasonally, for specified times each year within the two year maximum period.
Offences and Penalties
A person who commits an offence against this section is liable for a fine of $100,000. However, if the defendant is an individual who is not a commercial fisher, and they can establish that the species was taken for a purpose other than sale, a fine of up to $5000 could be imposed.
For further information, please contact the Ministry of Fisheries.