Snapper stocks are brimming but Kiwis miss out on cheaper deal

Lloyd Burr 13/10/2021

LISTEN: Waters off the coast of Taranaki are overflowing with snapper and local commercial fishermen say Kiwis are missing out on a cheaper and fairer deal because the government won't let them catch the fish.

Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, David Parker, revealed in September catch limits were to be updated after fisheries sustainability measures were reviewed and changed.

He even acknowledged the North Island's West Coast snapper stocks, like those seen in Taranaki waters which are brimming at the moment, were in "good health" and the healthier stocks would keep increasing even if catch limits and allowances were much higher.

Egmont Seafoods' Keith Mawson acknowledges snapper stocks took a hammering in the 1960s before restrictions were put in place. However over the past 16 years, snapper fish stocks have seen a "five-fold increase" on the West Coast.

"It's the most abundant fish species that we've got on this coast yet we're being constrained to this 1300 tonne commercial catch limit which was set way back in 2005," he told Lloyd Burr Live.

Parker has only increased the annual commercial catch limit in the area, known as Snapper 8, by 300 tonnes, taking the total catch limit to 1600 tonnes.

That has angered local commercial operators as they had hoped to see it increase to 2600 tonnes.

Mawson says the government has missed an opportunity to harvest a fish stock that is overly abundant.

Snapper is currently about $40 a kilogram, and Mawson believes Kiwis could have seen a significant reduction in that price of more snapper could be caught by commercial fishing operators.

But not all fishermen are keen to catch more snapper - even if there are higher numbers of them.

Recreational fishermen are concerned commercial operators will go and harvest all of the snapper stocks, leaving them with nothing.

Ken Barry from the Sportfishing Council says it has taken a long time for snapper fish stocks to replenish to the levels we are seeing now.

"The Minister has taken a really conservative effort," he told Lloyd Burr Live.

Barry says we need more scientific research to help understand the Snapper 8 area and how overfishing could ruin fish stocks again if a cautious approach isn't followed.

Listen to the full discussion with Keith Mawson and Ken Barry above.

Magic Talk | Lloyd Burr Live, weekdays from 4pm.

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