Blue cod in the balance


Time is running out for the chance to have your views heard on future management of the blue cod fishery in Marlborough Sounds.

Codlips

The Blue Cod Management Group – made up of recreational, commercial and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) representatives – is heading a review of the prized, but threatened fishery, and recreational anglers have until June 30 to have their say.

The intention of the review is to strike a balance between ensuring a healthy population of blue cod and ensuring the ongoing health of this fishery.

The fishery was closed in 2008 to allow for the recovery of the blue cod populations in Marlborough Sounds, and the current recreational fishing rules were implemented in 2011 when the fishery was re-opened.

However the controversial recreational guidelines include the ‘slot rule’, whereby only blue cod between 30-35cm can be taken.

This has led to a situation where captured fish outside of the ‘slot size’ suffer high mortality rates on return to the water and some evidence suggests blue cod numbers have not increased since 2008 as a result.

The Minister for Primary Industries released the Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod Regulatory Review Consultation Document on June 2 and are inviting stakeholders to lodge written submissions before June 30.

As part of the consultation process the, MPI and the Blue Cod Management Group will be holding ’Drop In Sessions’ on June 11 at Mana Cruising Club, Wellington; June 16 at the Rutherford Hotel, Nelson; and June 17 at Marlborough Conference Centre, Blenheim – all between 4.30pm-7.30pm.

This will be the final opportunity for the public to have their say before Fisheries Minister Nathan Guy announces the new rules in October.

Recreational fisherman Hugh Shields believes it is inevitable casual anglers will bare the brunt of the failed slot rule experiment in the form of reduced daily bag limits.

He says the MPI’s insistence on ‘traditional’ fisheries management – which relies on daily bag limits, minimum sizes and zone closures – will not help the blue cod fishery recover.

"Given that the ‘traditional’ methods of management have proven to be ineffective safeguards in the face of an ever-increasing number of fishers, using ever-improving technology to target ever-diminishing fish stocks, when are the decision makers going to abandon single species management, in favour of spatial (environmental) management, as is being adopted by other leading fishing nations?" Shields said in a press statement.

Fisheries advocacy group LegaSea has also weighed in on this issue and partnered with the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association (MRFA) and the Coalition of the Combined Clubs of Wellington (CCW) to develop their own recommendations for the blue cod fishery.

These include a two or three fish limit across the top of the South Island, a minimum size of 30-33cm and no slot rule or transit rule. The complete recommendations can be found here: legasea.co.nz/bluecod.php

To have your say on the future of this important fishery, email ideas and potential solutions to MSbluecod@mpi.govt.nz and also contact MPI on this address if you would like to be involved in the formal consultation this month.

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