By ROBYN BRISTOW
Recreational blue cod fishers launching from Motunau have hit a snag.
New blue cod limits, which kick in on July 1, reducing the bag limit from 10 to two, have taken many by surprise.
They say two cod will not feed their family and will not warrant putting a boat in the water to go fishing out of Motunau.
While recognising that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is trying to protect fish stocks by limiting the catch between the Hurunui and Rakaia rivers, fishers say such a drastic cut is unnecessary and unfair.
Kelly Sintes, of Rangiora, says he goes fishing with others on their boat, and has taken only the voluntary limit in recent years, which was set at six. He shares his catch with his extended family at a barbecue. “I won’t be able to do that now,” he says.
He says the cut has been “sprung” on fishers, many of whom are upset by the limit.
While he was aware new limits were supposed to be introduced on April 1, but were postponed because of the Covid-19 lockdown, he did not know the cut would be so drastic.
Another recreational fisherman says it will not be worth putting his boat in the water for the paltry amount of blue cod he can fish for.
The fisherman says he and two other fishers boated north of Motunau last week for half an hour. Within 90 minutes of starting to fish they had all caught their quota of 10 blue cod.
Had they been able to bait their lines faster, they would have filled their quota quicker.
While aware there had been consultation on the limits, he was unprepared for the “traffic light” system MPI had set up to protect the sustainability of the fishery, with red being the limit of two around Motunau and the Marlborough Sounds.
He believes it would have been more sensible to increase the size limit of fish.
It appeared he could not even launch from Motunau, motor north of the restricted area and fish, and then return to Motunau.
He will now ply his recreational fishing in other areas of the South Island where the limit is not as strict, using more fuel and creating a larger carbon footpath as he heads out of Christchurch.
Fisheries New Zealand’s director of fisheries management, Emma Taylor, says blue cod’s popularity has led to overfishing in some parts of the country.
“These new rules are to address localised overfishing, particularly in parts of the South Island where most blue cod are caught.
“Standardising the legal minimum size of blue cod to 33cm will contribute to improving the productivity of blue cod populations by allowing the fish to grow to a larger size and giving them a greater chance to breed.
“This size limit is already in place for commercial fishers and recreational fishers in many areas.”
The changes were consulted on in March 2019 and more than 900 submissions were received, with most submitters in support of a reduction to the daily bag limit for blue cod, she says.
From July 1, 2020, the minimum catch size of blue cod will be standardised to 33cm across most areas (except in the upper North Island). The minimum pot mesh size for blue cod will change to 54mm. A measure known as “the traffic light system” will be used to indicate the daily bag limit for different areas.