Thursday, November 8, 2012
A rant about fisheries
The book from the island of Dr No arrived yesterday - AKA the Tassie Recreational sea fishing guide. I'm an ex-fisheries Scientist. There's no doubt that Tassie was cowboy fishing country - to its detriment - with gill nets and shark fishing particularly. I'm a fairly fanatical sustainable use ex-fisheries scientist, and I want to see the fish there for my grandchildren. But fisheries management works by getting the public to buy in to the process. If you simply blanket ban and restrict - without any form of 'reward' - for so many people it becomes a case of 'well, if I can get away with it', and minimal co-operation from the people who outnumber the authorities 5000:1. This is especially true where the process is viewed us unfair to the public. At the moment with issuing permits for super-trawlers where they just hadn't done the research and cutting the cray quota for recreational fishers, while effectively leaving commercial fishers (who take well over 90% of the catch) unaffected, their image is not precisely glowing. It's a process which has political aspects, and has to be managed as that. The response to losing popular support, typically has been to apply more heavy penalties. It works... if you can terrify enough people. It does not get you much support. The process of regulating fisheries needs to be SEEN to be good for the fishing - which means you have to deliver rewards as well as penalties. In the Rock lobster area, the recreational take is now down to 0.68 per day per pot. In New Zealand - where they realized the value of the recreational fishery... it's 3 per pot. The New Zealanders realized they made far more money out of recreational fishing as an industry, than commercial fishing, and that it was less damaging. So they wound in the commercial fishery. Their daily bag is now 6... ours is down to 3. What's more, it's got better and cheaper to operate for the commercials (the only thing that really works for commercial fishery is to give ownership of a fixed piece of the resource - a reef for example - to a single operator. Otherwise it's I have to take this or he will). Sorry, there is no point in further stealing from the 7% for the commercial fishery. And their stats are dismal. Why not simply issue each fisher with say 30 tags for their license. You may not possess a crayfish without a tag, and you can get a refund for unused ones. Numbers job done. And you need to encourage people to broaden their targeting... Which means protecting species which are endangered and vulnerable, and letting people figure out how to catch other things. Yes, poisons, explosives or any form of indiscriminate fish/crustacean kill has to be banned. But the concept that crab traps (where crabs are not protected, and may in areas be invasive (european green crab, pie crust crab) can't be used is just barking). So is a 20 limit on all the shellfish they don't list. Please. Pencil-bait for example are as common as pipis in places. So are various other species - the ribbed mussel for example. They are not large. 20 would yield 100 gram of edible meat. Urchins - which aren't even listed would be assumed to be shellfish by most are a pest in many areas. So why not tell people in areas where this is true, that it is open season? Or set a limit of say 1 kilo of shellfish not listed (as at least half is likely to be shell, that's 500 grams). You may not collect live seaweed. Well, hell. I eat the stuff. The amount I need for a feed is maybe 100 grams. Mostly I take it off foul hooked fishing, which is a pretty grey area, as it is sea-drift, and not deliberately collected. But within reason - like 500 grams - live is very little in tons that get washed up, rotting. And invasive species - Japanese kelp - ought to be fair game, take as much as you please so long as it is that. And then there are regional differences, limpets here are very common, around the cities, rare. Doughboy scallops mature smaller and do not grow as large here as in Southern waters. Shape the rules around these things allowing reasonable use. Restrict movement of the stuff (to cheat the rules) by all means. But rules for Hobart make no sense on Flinders.