Marlborough Sounds closed to rebuild blue cod
Even when rules are in place to manage fishing, the sheer numbers of people going fishing in an area can place stress
on fish stocks.
Recently the Minister of Fisheries
announced that the blue cod fishery in
the Marlborough Sounds will be closed
for the next four years to protect the longterm
future of the fishery.
This closure is to relieve the pressure
on the fish stock and give time for the
community to come together and make
decisions on how this fishery should be
managed into the future with a fishery plan.
Blue cod is a very important fishery to the
Nelson/Marlborough Sounds communities.
The Ministry received over a thousand
submissions about measures needed to
protect and rebuild the blue cod fishery.
While there was no universal agreement
over what measures to take, the majority
of submissions supported further action
to protect the future of this fishery, with
most supporting closed areas.
The fishing closure will come into effect
on 1 October 2008 and will expire on
1 October 2012. It will be illegal for
recreational fishers to take blue cod
caught within the enclosed Marlborough
Sounds area. This includes all ‘enclosed
waters’ of Pelorus, Kenepuru, Queen
Charlotte Sounds and Tory Channel.
Fishing for other species within the
Sounds will still be allowed but blue cod
caught unintentionally must be returned
to the water immediately.
Commercial fishers in the area have
agreed to continue the existing agreement
to not fish in the enclosed Sounds while
the closure is in force.
The Tory Channel blue cod fishery is not
in as much trouble as elsewhere, but it
has been included in the closure to avoid
rapid decline to the same state as the rest
of the Sounds, especially because of the
increased pressure it would come under
if it was excluded from this closure.
A scientific fish stock survey run by
NIWA in late 2007 has confirmed that
since 2004 the number of juvenile blue
cod has seen an average decline of 57
percent across the Marlborough Sounds.
Along with this, the inner Queen Charlotte
Sound is reporting no blue cod at all. Only
the very outer areas of the Sounds, where
commercial fishers operate showed a
reasonable number of adult blue cod.
Previous measures to rebuild the population
have been unsuccessful, including reducing
the recreational daily bag limit to three
blue cod per fisher per day, and increasing
the minimum legal size in 2003.
Around 150 tonnes of blue cod are
estimated to be harvested each year
by recreational fishers, compared with
15 tonnes by commercial fishers.
Recreational fishing in the Sounds is likely
to continue to increase over time as the
area becomes increasingly popular for
fishers both within and outside the region.
New developments in the area include
an additional 500 new berths planned
for the Picton and Waikawa marinas, as
well as new baches being built around
the Sounds. Boat trailer registrations in Nelson/Marlborough and Canterbury
have increased by 40 percent over the last
decade. New boats are also becoming
more efficient by using sophisticated
equipment to find the fish including GPS
and fish finders.
Significant numbers of fishermen also
cross the Cook Strait from Wellington and
Mana to fish in the Marlborough Sounds.