Marlborough Express - Proposed recreational fishing park for the Marlborough Sounds

Monday, February 22, 2016

The proposed establishment of a recreational fishing park in the Marlborough Sounds is a positive step forward for the sustainable future of what I, and many others, consider to be the jewel in the crown of our region.

While there are certainly a number of concerns surrounding the establishment of such a park, what is clear is that doing nothing at all would eventually spell the end of the fishery for our future generations. For example, our blue cod fishery was closed once as a result of depleted numbers from 2009-2011 and it remains under tight control.

The Government is proposing the recreational fishing park in our Sounds as part of the proposed new Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Act, which would replace the Marine Reserves Act 1971. There is already a lot of discussion around the proposed park, which is good: after all, what we want is the best outcome for Marlborough's fishery, economy and our people. I was pleased to see the number of commercial fishers, stakeholders and recreational fishers who attended the public meeting about the fishing park  held in Blenheim a couple of weeks ago, and attended by Environment Minister Nick Smith.

It was a very useful exercise for all and it is great that so many people – so many locals – are taking an active interest in the future of the Marlborough Sounds.

There are concerns that the fishing park will mean job and income losses for commercial fishermen. While we anticipate the vast majority of commercial fishers will be able to shift their efforts beyond the parks, compensation will be payable to quota owners who face undue costs of fishing as a result, such as additional fuel and time at sea.

We absolutely recognise the importance of fishing quotas as a source of income for Marlborough and all these details will be worked through carefully and in good faith with commercial fishers. We want to strike the right balance between protecting our fish stocks for future generations with the need for economic growth.

It was raised at the meeting that the Kaikoura marine strategy, Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura, was perhaps a preferable model to manage the Sounds rather than the top-down approach that is being proposed. While Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura has indeed proven to be a very successful model for the Kaikoura area, adopting it here would require building an entirely new framework. Within the proposed new legislation, that framework would already exist which saves both time and significant costs.

That is not to say that locals lose control over their area. It will come down to management of the marine fishing park by a group made up of stakeholders, iwi and any other interested parties.

I encourage anyone who has a view on the proposed new legislation and fishing park to lodge a submission. Submissions can be made on the Ministry for the Environment's website until March 11.