Blue Cod proposals out for consultation
12 March 2008
Ministry of Fisheries today started consultation on a suite of proposals aimed at halting the decline of blue cod numbers in the Marlborough Sounds.
Nelson based Inshore Fisheries Manager Scott Williamson said, "Results from a NIWA-run survey of blue cod in late 2007 confirm what fishers already know - blue cod are getting harder to catch in the inner and middle Marlborough Sounds.
“There was an average decline across Marlborough of 57% of juvenile blue cod from 2004, with inner Queen Charlotte Sound reporting no blue cod at all. Only the very outer areas of the Sounds showed a reasonable number of adult blue cod. The previous reduction of the amateur daily bag limit and adjustment to the minimum legal size in 2003 has not been successful in reducing recreational harvest levels to allow blue cod populations to rebuild.”
Mr Williamson said: “It is clear that we have too many people chasing too few fish and something has to change if we are to have a fishery that our children can enjoy.
“Most people agree that an increase in recreational fishing is the main factor in the decrease of blue cod.”
The latest harvest estimate for the amateur fishers is 150 tonnes. The commercial fishers’ harvest is 10% of that figure at 15 tonnes and the commercial fishery is in the very outer Marlborough Sounds.
To rebuild blue cod numbers in the Sounds, MFish is proposing the following measures:
- Temporary close parts of the Queen Charlotte Sound and/or Pelorus Sound to all hook and line fishing for a period of at least three years – see maps 1 and 2 below
- Reduce the current daily bag limit from three to two blue cod per person per day and introduce a limit of a total of six blue cod per boat per day
- Allow fishers to possess only one day’s bag limit on multi-day fishing trips
- Require fishers to land all blue cod whole or gutted so fish can be measured by fishery officers
- Require fishers to retain all blue cod at or above the minimum legal size of 30cm to a maximum of two fish and then move to target other species or stop fishing (this is to stop fishers continuing to fish in the hope of catching a larger, legal fish, and throwing back smaller, legal fish they had caught earlier).
- Strengthen and formalise voluntary agreements with commercial fishers to prevent targeting of blue cod in large areas of Queen Charlotte and Pelorus Sound – see map 3.
Mr Williamson also said that, “The Ministry has worked with the local stakeholder group SoundFish who have proposed two further measures to help rebuild blue cod numbers for community comment.” These are:
- Limiting all hook and line fishers to one hook per line and using only large hooks (6/0 or greater) to avoid catching small fish.
- Setlining to use large hooks of size 10/0 or greater.
- Amending the boundary of the Marlborough Sounds Area defined in the fisheries regulation to include Croisilles Harbour on the western side and Port Underwood on the eastern side.
“Blue cod is a very important fishery to the Marlborough Sounds community. MFish and SoundFish have come up with some sound conservation ideas to help rebuild size and numbers.”
These measures are meant only to stop the decline of blue cod further while the community through, SoundFish and MFish considers how best to manage and provide for fishing in the long term.”
MFish encourages everyone interested to make a submission on these proposals, as support and feedback from the community is critical. Submissions close on 23 April 2008.
A full copy of the proposal can be downloaded from the Consultation section of this website, or can be requested from your local MFish office.
Map 1. Proposed closed area in the Queen Charlotte Channel
Map 2. Proposed closed area in the Pelorus Sound
Map 3. Proposed closed area for commercial targeting of blue cod