AMATEUR FISHING MINISTERIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE
MINUTES OF 15 JULY 2008 MEETING
Jim Anderton – Minister of Fisheries (2:15 – 4:00pm)
Wayne McNee – Chief Executive - MFish
Jonathan Peacey – National Manager Fisheries Operations - MFish
Peter Schroder – Manager Inshore Fisheries - MFish
Jonathan Rudge – Acting Policy Manager - MFish
Edwin Massey – Policy Analyst - MFish
Anna Falloon – Minister’s Private Secretary (2:15 – 4:00pm)
Welcome, confirm agenda and recap previously agreed actions
Wayne McNee welcomed Committee members to the meeting. He confirmed that the action points of the previous meeting had been completed. The final draft charter vessel reporting form would be sent out to Committee members for comment when this was available.
Discussion on AFMAC strategic review
Wayne invited any additional comments from Committee members on the strategic review. Committee members explained that the review captured their collective frustration with the lack of progress towards management outcomes that benefit amateur fishers. They considered that the current legislative framework does not provide amateur fishers with the scope of tools to allow for their interests.
Wayne explained that currently, it was difficult to change legislation. Wayne also explained that the Committee would have the opportunity to express their views on long-term changes to fisheries management through projects such as the Vision 2030 and the ongoing review of legislation.
Wayne highlighted that the Committee had an advisory function to the Minister and did not represent the amateur sector in management discussions. The Committee agreed that their role was to provide strategic advice, not to lobby on behalf of the sector. However, they also outlined that the Committee lacked the resources, or presence in Wellington to ensure their views were disseminated widely.
The Committee also explained how other amateur sector groups struggled to accept AFMAC’s advisory role or their legitimacy. Wayne suggested that this was a common view of Ministerial advisory committees in other sectors. He noted that, despite the perceived lack of support from within the sector, and even though it was not representative, the Committee could be particularly influential as it gave advice directly to the Minister.
Wayne accepted many of the recommendations expressed in the AFMAC strategic review. He explained that MFish is open-minded to the Committee having its own chair and to review membership following the general election. He also accepted that the Committee could have more control of setting meeting agendas. Kim Walshe stated that he thought the Minister should remain the chair of the Committee.
Wayne outlined that by the next meeting, Committee members should develop a timeframe for the deliverables stemming from the strategic review so this could be discussed with the incoming Minister.
Amateur stakeholders’ engagement in fisheries plans
Debate on this agenda item had a wide focus. There was some specific discussion on amateur sector engagement in fisheries plans and general discussion on amateur sector involvement in fisheries management.
Committee members, citing the ongoing tension over the CRA3 fisheries plan as an example, expressed frustration that fisheries plans did not provide tangible benefits for amateur fishers. Committee members also expressed dissatisfaction that there were few management tools available for amateur stakeholders to use in fisheries plan negotiation processes.
Jonathan Peacey explained that because key fisheries management tools were focussed at a QMA level and amateur stakeholders were primarily concerned with management at sub-QMA level, it was sometimes difficult to give effect to amateur stakeholders’ aspirations.
Jonathan also explained that fisheries plans were developed through multi-stakeholder processes. This meant that each group would not always achieve everything they want through fisheries plans.
Committee members expressed the view that many amateur fishers lacked the negotiation skills to make their participation in fisheries plans worthwhile. Kim Walshe suggested that if MFish provided negotiation skills training and education on resource stewardship this would encourage amateur fishers to become more involved in fisheries management.
Jonathan Peacey explained that as fisheries plans evolved, he expected amateur sector capacity to grow as amateur representatives became more experienced in the process. He acknowledged that in the short-term capacity would continue to be a constraint. He suggested MFish might be able to assist amateur stakeholders with negotiation skills training and education in fisheries management.
Amateur sector involvement in fisheries management
Jonathan Peacey explained that MFish is working to get the amateur sector more involved in fisheries management, including through regional forums and fisheries plans. He explained that MFish would be keen to meet regularly with a nationally representative group of amateur sector stakeholders to discuss their views on operational matters. He noted that AFMAC is probably not best-suited for this role because it has a more strategic focus.
Committee members explained that many of the problems associated with getting amateur sector input in fisheries management stemmed from the amateur sector’s lack of a representative structure and resources to ensure adequate participation. There was debate regarding what this structure should look like, how it could develop, and how it should be funded.
Peter Ellery expressed another view suggesting that getting further amateur sector input into management was difficult until the amateur sector’s fishing rights are more clearly defined.
Committee members agreed that the best way to get meaningful input was for amateur sector stakeholders to have input into shaping the options before they were approved to go into Initial Position Papers (IPP). Jonathan Peacey explained that, increasingly MFish is trying to provide opportunities for this to occur.
Minister’s address on current issues
The Minister explained that he felt that sector groups failed to accept a collective responsibility for sustainability issues. He explained that it was his role to make sustainability decisions for the long-term benefit of the resource. These decisions were often difficult and based on limited information. He knew that some of these decisions had real effects on stakeholders and would be unpopular with particular sector groups.
The Minister expressed his disappointment at the difficulties associated with improving shared fisheries management over the last 18 months. He explained that he thought the proposals had offered clear benefits to all sectors and the lack of stakeholder support had come as a shock.
Discussion on role and function of AFMAC – Minister’s input and insight
The Minister thanked the Committee for the work they had done during his term as Minister. He expressed his satisfaction with the recommendations contained in the AFMAC strategic review. He highlighted that AFMAC was an advisory committee not a representative committee. He explained that although he did not always take the Committee’s advice, he valued their input and always listened to what they had to say.
Discussion on funding to progress the shared fisheries initiatives
The Minister explained that he was encouraged by the progress being made by the joint stakeholder working group (the working group) on shared fisheries. Geoff Rowling outlined that the steering group was still in an information gathering phase and that further progress was likely to be slow. The Minister acknowledged that although the working group’s report on shared fisheries was going to be delayed he was prepared to continue funding the discussions if they continued to progress.
The Minister acknowledged that a lack of funding made it difficult for amateur sector representatives to always be involved in fisheries management. Committee members suggested that one possible funding solution was for the Government to resource amateur fishers through revenue raised by specific levies on fishing tackle or boat fuel. The Minister explained that this was impractical and the Government was unwilling to separate portions of the tax take and specify how they would be used.
The Minister explained that the amateur sector had to move away from relying on government funding for representation. He outlined that if the sector paid its own way to participate in management it would be on a level playing field with representatives of the other fishing sectors. The Committee then moved on to discuss the costs and benefits of a licensing regime for amateur fishers.
Discussion on the Minister’s decision on the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan
The Minister confirmed that he made his decision on the Hector’s and Maui’s Dolphin Threat Management Plan based strictly on scientific evidence and that he had disregarded anecdotal information. He explained that he had listened to the Committee’s advice suggesting compulsory attendance of amateur set nets rather than netting prohibitions, but that on many coastlines he considered this option as potentially dangerous.
Geoff Rowling explained that the Committee was unhappy with the way the Minister’s decision applied differently to amateur and commercial fishers. Geoff was particularly concerned that commercial fishers could still trawl and set net on the west coast of the South Island while amateur fishers were banned from set netting there. Geoff explained that as this area had the highest dolphin population density it was most likely that dolphins would be caught and killed by commercial fishers.
The Minister explained that he had tried to use levels of response appropriate for the different levels of threat. The most restrictive prohibitions were limited to those areas which had the lowest dolphin population, such as on the west coast of the North Island. In other areas, such as on the west coast of the South Island, the prohibitions did not have to be as restrictive. Consequently, in these areas commercial trawling and netting was not restricted.
The Minister also explained that set netting by amateur fishers was a big threat to dolphins and is difficult to monitor. The Minister explained that although commercial trawling and set netting did put dolphins at risk, it was possible to monitor commercial activity through the observer program. The Minister confirmed that if this monitoring uncovered evidence that commercial fishers were catching dolphins, further steps would be taken to prevent this from occurring.
Geoff Rowling expressed concern on how the Minister’s decision to ban amateur set netting would affect subsequent decisions to introduce marine protected areas (MPA) in the South Island. He explained that even though amateur set net restrictions effectively turned areas of coastline into “unofficial” MPAs, subsequent decisions to introduce MPAs were unlikely to consider these areas as having protected status. Consequently, Geoff highlighted that there was little incentive for amateur stakeholders to be further involved in an MPA process that would likely result in their access to fishing areas being further reduced. Geoff proposed that a comprehensive prohibition on all bulk fishing methods within 3 miles of the coast would protect dolphins and satisfy the Government’s aspirations to establish a network of MPAs.
Recap of action points from meeting, suggested agenda for next meeting - conclusion
Wayne McNee suggested that the Committee meet again before the general election to plan the implementation of the recommendations made in the strategic review. The next meeting should identify action points to be discussed with the incoming Minister following the general election. Wayne explained that the Minister would probably not be present at the next meeting.
The next AFMAC meeting is likely to be held in October 2008.