COMMENT: Fear and intimidation… and fish
This big old fish fight just got really dirty. Commercial fishermen are dumping huge amounts of snapper on almost every trip, according to claims made on TV3’s Campbell Live last night.
But that’s not the worst part – anyone who dares expose this practice risks taking a beating.
The claims were made on John Campbell’s show by a Northland commercial fisherman so frightened about the repercussions that his face was obscured during the interview.
Has it really come to this? Presuming that the accusations are true, what we have here on this little island nation is a level of crime and corruption that would be fitting in a mafia movie.
Can we believe it all? Maybe. Maybe not. Some will argue that the whole thing is a ploy to create headlines and raise the profile of the recreational fishos’ plight.
But I don't believe that's true.
What can’t be debated is that fish dumping happens and it happens a lot. Millions of snapper are dumped in our waters every year.
But to look at the trawlers and heap all the blame on them is to look at this sorry tale from the wrong angle.
Those who dump legal-sized fish are committing a crime. Not only that, it’s morally wrong. They should have their boats taken off them and be hit hard in the pocket.
Quota holders who force fishermen to dump fish should face even harsher financial penalties and prison sentences.
But let’s ask ourselves why they’re doing it. If a commercial fisher catches more than their Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE), they must pay the deemed value for that species, which always turns out to be way more than what they would get at market for that species.
What we have is a system that encourages commercial fishermen to break the law. It’s all wrong.
Commercial fishermen who dump fish should be severely penalised, no doubt about it.
But our government should also be held accountable for the ridiculous system that hammers the little guy – namely the recreational fisho who catches a feed for his family – and let’s rich quota holders get richer.
We await the decision on the Snapper 1 fishery (East Cape to North Cape), with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) considering options that could see recreational bag limits slashed and the commercial quota increased.
A source close to decision-makers at the MPI revealed to me that it’s extremely likely that recreational bag limits will take a cut and the commercial quota will be increased slightly.
Sanford Limited, which owns around a quarter of the SNA1 snapper quota, turned over around half a billion dollars last year.
You could say that this commercial fisheries business is a nice little earner.
Perhaps the government wants to see Sanford, and their fellow quota holders, rake in some more cash.
The easiest way to do that is to reduce the recreational take. It’s sickening.
We await the decision on Snapper 1 from the MPI, which is likely to come through in the next few weeks.
Recreational fishos, a whole army of them, are primed for action and they’ll be ready for a fight if the government doesn’t make the right call.
They won’t use fear or intimidation. They’ll use the tools of democracy and fairness and eventually the good will out.