Mfish Proposes Positive Changes To Managing Blue Cod 7 Fishery
5 December 2002
The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) has asked fishery interest groups to comment on proposed changes to the management of the blue cod fishery in the top half of the South Island.
"New stock assessment information confirms our view that the blue cod populations in the Marlborough Sounds are under considerable pressure," said MFish Fisheries Advisor Paul Creswell.
"It shows that the relative abundance of blue cod bigger than 28 cm ('recruited fish') has approximately halved between 1995/96 and 2001. In fact, catch rates in some areas of the Marlborough Sounds have declined by as much as 60-90 per cent over the same period."
"The results of the new research are consistent with the expected effects from a high level of recreational fishing pressure in the Marlborough Sounds. While the information concerns blue cod in the Marlborough Sounds, recreational fishing pressure in adjacent Golden and Tasman Bays is also increasing, and is likely to be having similar effects on local blue cod populations."
Available information on harvest levels of blue cod in the top of the South Island suggests it may be as high as 290 tonnes caught by recreational fishers each year, the majority of which is caught in the Marlborough Sounds. Annual commercial catches for the entire Challenger Fisheries Management Area, on the other hand, have been about 47 tonnes in recent years.
MFish Proposals To help stop the decline in blue cod numbers, MFish proposes:
- Manage the top of the South Island as a single recreational management area for blue cod, rather than the current two separate management areas
- Standardise and reduce the daily bag limit to three fish per person per day
- Standardise the minimum legal size limit to 30 cm total fish length
- Reinforce the message for fishers to use large 'barbless' hooks when targeting blue cod
- Review the total allowable commercial catch (TACC), which is presently set at 70 tonnes.
- Bring together ideas on the establishment of an ecosystem-based management approach to the Marlborough Sounds fishery.
Mr Creswell said MFish expected the proposed rule changes for recreational fishers would reduce recreational catches of blue cod significantly. These rules would apply to all areas in the Marlborough Sounds, Golden and Tasman Bays.
"Although the proposed rule changes will assist to reduce fishing pressure on blue cod populations, all recreational fishers must play their part in rebuilding the stock," he said.
"One way they can do this is to use size 6/0 large 'barbless' hooks. This will reduce the capture of small blue cod, and decrease the hook-induced mortality of fish returned back to the sea."
Mr Creswell said retaining existing separate sub-management areas was no longer considered appropriate because of the ability of recreational fishers and charter boat operators to shift their fishing effort into the outer Sounds and adjoining areas.
The current daily bag limits for blue cod are six fish per person in the Marlborough Sounds area and 10 in Golden and Tasman Bays. The current minimum legal size limit in the Marlborough Sounds is 28 cm, and in Golden and Tasman Bays, 33 cm.
"We consider these changes will address the immediate problems and help stop the decline in blue cod numbers, but long-term, a wider approach is needed to manage the stock," said Mr Creswell.
"The effect of fishing is just one of a wide range of physical and human factors influencing fisheries resources in the Marlborough Sounds. Longer-term, an ecosystem-based management approach is needed to promote the continued viability of the resources within this area, including the BCO7 fishery.
"An ecosystem-based approach should consider the impact land activities, such as changes in land use, and marine-based activities such as fishing, marine farming and tourism, have on the Marlborough Sounds marine environment. It should also look into the range of statutory and non-statutory management tools available to address these impacts.
"We intend to continue discussions with tangata whenua, local and central government agencies, and relevant stakeholders, to consider the viability and interest in progressing a longer-term ecosystem-based management approach for the Marlborough Sounds."
Commenting on the proposals
The proposed changes are part of an Initial Position Paper (IPP), on which MFish seeks comment from fishery interest groups. The IPP is expected to be released on Monday, 9 December 2002. The deadline for submissions on the proposal is 7 February 2003. Additional copies of the proposal can be obtained by:
- contacting the MFish Nelson office, telephone 03 548 1069
- calling in at 114 Vickerman Street, Nelson.
For further information, please contact
Paul Creswell, MFish Fisheries Advisor
Telephone 03 548 1069 or 0274 785 432