Fisheries NZ Minister Stuart Nash’s 2019 decision to allow East Coast tarakihi stocks to remain overfished for the next 25 years is not environmentally sustainable or legal, Forest & Bird will argue in the Wellington High Court from July 22nd.
"The East Coast tarakihi stock has been fished down to a shocking 15% of their natural population," says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
"There is clear Government policy that any fish that is depleted to this extent must be allowed to rebuild, and in the case of tarakihi within 10 years. Minister Nash’s 2019 decision to reduce the commercial catch by only 10% means it will take at least 25 years for the stock to rebuild, if it ever does,”
“The East Coast tarakihi population has been pillaged to a critically low level. Yet the purpose of the Quota Management System and the Fisheries Act is to prevent this from happening," says Mr Hague.
"The Minister's decision should concern anyone who makes their living from the sea, recreational fishers, and tangata whenua. Tarakihi are a key coastal species on which jobs and the health of our coastal seas depend.”
“The Fisheries Act is far from perfect, and Forest & Bird believes it needs a significant overhaul to bring fisheries management into the 21st century. But even under the current system, fish stocks should be managed sustainably."
Forest & Bird says it is also concerned the Minister relied on a voluntary plan provided by the fishing industry which contains actions such as further research, and rules where commercial fishing boats would temporarily move on from an area if they are catching too many undersized fish.
“The Industry Rebuild Plan shouldn't be used in place of an appropriate catch limit. There is no way to determine what impact the industry plan will have, because the plan is voluntary. Fisheries NZ’s advice was that they aren't sure whether the Industry Rebuild Plan will deliver an accelerated rate of rebuild,” Mr Hague says.
The High Court hearing is set for Wellington, Wednesday 22 July and Thursday 23 July. The Minister of Fisheries and industry representatives Fisheries Inshore New Zealand and Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd are opposing Forest & Bird’s challenge.