Managing customary fisheries and traditional fishing grounds
The customary fishing regulations return some of the mana for fisheries management to tangata whenua.
They let iwi and hapū manage their non-commercial fishing in a way that best fits their local practices.
But they do not have a major effect on the fishing rights of others.
To use the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapū groups must decide who has tangata whenua status over a fishery. This can be shared by a number of groups. Groups choose people to act as guardians for the area (Tangata Kaitiaki in the North and Chatham Islands, Tangata Tiaki in the South and Stewart Islands). The guardians are then appointed by the Minister of Fisheries.
Guardians can issue anyone a permit to catch fish in their area for customary use. They must report these catches to the Ministry of Fisheries so the government can allow for customary use when it sets next year's catch limits.
Tangata whenua can ask for special management areas - "mātaitai reserves" and "taiapure-local fisheries" - to cover some of their traditional fishing grounds. Within mātaitai reserves, guardians can bring in changes to the rules for customary and recreational fishing. They can also say whether some types of commercial fishing should continue in the reserve.
Without the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapū can only take fish for important events through the Amateur Fishing Regulations. This lets marae honour guests by providing seafood at events like hui and blessings. But it gives no more control over their fisheries than this.
The Ministry of Fisheries has been working with iwi and hapū to make them aware of the customary fishing regulations, and get them more involved in fisheries management in their areas.
By February 2006, 39 iwi and hapū groups had confirmed their tangata whenua status over their fisheries.
Within these, 278 guardians (or groups of guardians) had been appointed. Six of these groups have gone on to create mātaitai reserves over their traditional fishing grounds. These include the Mataura River mātaitai Reserve - our first freshwater mātaitai.