NZFFA Report for Reel Life November 2017

  • 24/11/2017

NZFFA Report for Reel Life November 2017


 According to NZ Statistics, we will have a population of around 5.5 million and as many, if not more tourists. We should similarly expect an increase in the number of trout fishers, both resident and non-resident. Our current angler management regime is very relaxed – buy a licence and fish whenever and wherever you want, the only exception being controlled fisheries of which we have two – the Greestone and the Ettrick Burn. Other than requiring an additional endorsement, our back country fisheries impose no limitations on angler usage.

There is some concern from some quarters of a perceived over-fishing of back country fisheries by non-resident anglers, particularly in the South Island and Otago especially. On the face of it there is little data to substantiate this – whole season non-resident licences sold were 5,663 for 2015/16 and 6,142 for 2016/17, roughly 8% of all licence equivalents (LEQs).

However, in Nelson/Marlborough, while only 5% of license sales were non-resident licences, 50% of surveyed anglers on the Travers and Goulter rivers in 2015/16 were non-residents, indicating that although non-residents make up a minority of anglers, the majority of their fishing is, not surprisingly, concentrated on our back country rivers.

Independently, many of our fisheries have declined for a variety of reasons (see the lost rivers map on the web site) so this compounds angling pressure by concentrating anglers on fewer stretches of water.

As we expect angler numbers to increase, so we can expect unwanted encounters to increase (bumping into other anglers on the same piece of water, being jumped, too many helicopters, etc). So how do we manage this for everyone’s benefit?

Currently there are two initiatives being touted by interested parties, controlling certain types of non-resident angler (Kiwi Anglers First) and the introduction of a Guides Licence (NZPFGA).  The former is centred on a hierarchy of importance – first is the fishery, then the citizens and residents of NZ and finally guides and non-residents. Much of this has come from encounters with the “trout bum” – a foreigner who spends months over-fishing and abusing our fragile back country rivers, camping wherever they want and being ignorant of our Kiwi values and etiquette (unpublished but you’re expected to be familiar with it nonetheless).  Sure, trout bums are out there but how many who knows? And some of them could be Kiwis.

As to how this hierarchy translates into fisheries management, things are less clear. There are some ideas – such as hiking up the non-resident licence fee, limiting the number of days non-residents can fish and making catch and release obligatory for overseas anglers – but nothing substantive.

Similarly, the concept of a Guides Licence, while great for guides as it throttles supply and includes aspirations that all overseas anglers must be guided, does little if anything for Kiwi anglers or the fishery.

The trouble is with both of these concepts is that the non-resident angler is being portrayed as the root of the problem, when surely the problem is how to optimise back country fisheries usage, irrespective of the colour of the angler’s passport.

Yes, we need to continually refresh our fisheries management plans as pressure increases, but this should be based on facts and figures, not emotions.  As an example and very clearly not suggesting all of these should be applicable here, here’s what happens in the UK currently, an over-populated country with tremendous fishery pressure:

  1. Private fisheries where only the wealthy elite can fish a piece of water.
  2. Beat systems where a stretch of water is fished on a first-come, first served basis and eliminated bumping into another angler/being jumped.
  3. Stillwater put and take fisheries – these are vastly the most popular form of UK trout fisheries, simply because they are affordable and accessible.
  4. Balloted fisheries, particular for some Atlantic salmon rivers.
  5. Booking systems, which allow the fisheries managers to rest the river in between anglers.
  6. Publishing a clear set of rules for each fishery on behaviour, limits, etiquette, etc.

Managing our pristine fisheries sustainably while maximising everyone’s enjoyment of them will always be a tightrope walk for Fish & Game.

David Haynes

Co-Leader NZ Outdoors Party


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