Catch limits in Otago and Southland fisheries will increase, while catch limits in Gisborne and Wellington/Hawke Bay fisheries will decrease. The limit changes will take effect on 1 April 2009.
Mr Heatley said his decisions were based on the best information available and careful consideration of submissions received from customary, recreational and commercial fishers, and the wider public.
“My overriding goal when adjusting catch limits is to make sure there will be fish for future generations of fishers.”
“When the science says extra fish can be safely taken then I will increase catch limits. However, if the science suggests catch limits need to be cut to protect the sustainability of the fishery, I will not hesitate to cut catches,” Mr Heatley said.
Southern Rock Lobster Fisheries
From 1 April, total catch in Otago (CRA 7) will increase 45 per cent from 144 tonnes to 209 tonnes, and in Southland (CRA 8) total catch will increase 5 per cent from 1053 tonnes to 1110 tonnes.
Both fisheries are closely managed with ongoing monitoring of stock health and abundance. This enables rapid responses to changes in lobster numbers to maintain strong and healthy stocks.
Mr Heatley said those operating in the Southern Rock Lobster fisheries deserved to be congratulated.
“The hard decisions in the late 1990s are bearing fruit and allowing me to increase catch limits now that the stocks are healthy, well above sustainable limits, and being carefully managed,” Mr Heatley said.
Most of the increase will go to commercial fishers with commercial quotas up 65 tonnes in CRA 7 and 53 tonnes in CRA 8. Mr Heatley said the increases would be welcomed by local communities in these difficult economic times.
Non-commercial catch limits will stay the same in CRA 7 but in CRA 8, the recreational allowance will increase.
“The information we have suggests the non-commercial catches in CRA 7 are still less than the existing allowances. In CRA 8, stakeholders have agreed catches may be exceeding allowances and a 4 tonne increase to the recreational allowance is appropriate,” Mr Heatley said.
Northern Rock Lobster Fisheries
Catch limits in Gisborne (CRA 3) and in Wellington/Hawke Bay (CRA 4) will decrease.
“There are problems in these fisheries and our focus needs to be on increasing the numbers of lobsters in the water,” Mr Heatley said.
Total catch in Gisborne (CRA 3) will decrease 9 per cent from 319 tonnes to 293 tonnes, with the commercial operators wearing all of the pain this time around.
Mr Heatley has asked the sector groups in CRA 3 to work constructively together in 2009 to develop a management tool to guide the setting of catch limits in the future.
“I want a management tool similar to that used so successfully in CRA 7 and CRA 8 because we need to respond much more quickly to changes in lobster numbers in this fishery,” Mr Heatley said.
The Minister has also adopted a new management tool that will guide the setting of catch limits in CRA 4 and should help the stock recover to healthy levels. In accordance with this new regime the total catch limit will be cut 40 per cent from 771 tonnes to 460 tonnes.
The cuts in CRA 4 build on action taken by CRA 4 fishers in recent years. Commercial fishers voluntarily reduced their catches in 2007 and 2008, while recreational fishing clubs voluntarily reduced their daily bag limits in 2008.
“I applaud these voluntary actions that show a commitment by all sectors to work together to make their fishery sustainable for future generations. It would be good to see similar initiatives in other fisheries like CRA 3,” Mr Heatley said.
The cuts in both fisheries affect commercial quotas only.
“It is difficult having to make cuts at this time but decisive action is needed now to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fisheries,” Mr Heatley said.
Rock lobsters are highly sought after by customary, recreational and commercial fishers throughout New Zealand.
Rock lobster (often called ‘crayfish’) is New Zealand’s third biggest seafood export earner. Most rock lobster caught in New Zealand is exported live, with the majority being sent to Hong Kong. The largest commercial catches of rock lobster are landed in Southland (CRA8).
Management tools like size limits, no take of egg carrying and soft shell lobsters, and escape gaps in lobster pots are used to protect the breeding stock. However, rock lobster abundance varies with changes in environmental conditions that affect important factors like settlement of juveniles and natural mortality rates. This means catch limits often need to be changed to reflect the changing environmental conditions.