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Expert Rejects Call for Longfin Eel Fishing Ban

2 May 2012, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - Victor Thompson, Chairman of the South Island Eel Industry Association, said that it is time for the education system to rid themselves of frauds masquerading as experts on longfin eels, after a ban on commercial longfin eel fishing has been suggested.

The South Island Eel Industry Association represents commercial eel fishermen operating throughout the South Island. Mr Thompson was reacting to recent statements from Dr Mike Joy, a senior lecturer at Massey University. Dr Joy has called for a ban on commercial fishing of longfin eels, because migrating adults were being killed in water screens and intakes, and pollution was destroying their habitat.

"This has nothing to do with commercial fishing", Mr Thompson said. "Perhaps Massey University should leave fisheries management to the experts, rather than waste scarce student resources trying to undo all the hard work we have put into maintaining a sustainable fishery."

Mr Thompson said that nobody has a more vested interest in sustaining New Zealand's longfin eel fisheries than commercial fishermen. Eel fishermen spent over NZ$200,000 per year on research, compliance and advocacy relating to eel fisheries in New Zealand. Eel fisheries had collapsed in Europe, North America and Japan, as a consequence of overfishing glass eels. Catching glass eels is banned in New Zealand, and commercial eel fishermen were leading the campaign to ensure that this ban continued.

"But now we have a so-called qualified expert' and other educators' calling for a moratorium on commercial eel fishing, and spreading this nonsense to the classroom", Mr Thompson said. He was particularly upset at the way Dr Joy and his Massey University colleagues had not updated themselves on the latest independent scientific information.

Mr Thompson pointed to independent scientific reports which indicate that, nationwide, longfin elver recruitment is increasing and catch rates are improving. Mr Thompson said that nearly 50 per cent of all eel habitat is not commercially fished, so at least one in two eels in NZ waterways are available to breed. This was more than enough to sustain commercial and customary eel fisheries, which are strictly regulated by quota.

Mr Thompson was also critical of rank amateurs' going around schools and masquerading as educators on longfin eels. These people had no stake in the fishery, and contributed nothing to the protection of longfin eel habitat or populations. "These wreckers need to learn what the Quota Management System is all about, and understand that commercial and customary fishery managers are working very hard to ensure that our valuable longfin eel fishery does not go the same way as those of the Northern Hemisphere."

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