Two summers ago recreational fishers were claiming they could hardly catch a kahawai and it was all the fault of alleged over fishing by the commercial sector.
That led to a series of meetings between the various parties, including Ministry for Primary Industries fisheries staff, and the adoption of several significant measures to enhance the fishery.
A large area in the bay, termed the Springs Box, covering 237 square kilometres was ruled off limits for commercial fishing over the last two summers.
Fishers agreed not to trawl or long line in the area for three months from December 1, reserving it for boaties. There was an exception for trolling for albacore.
In addition, the existing regulated line restricting commercial fishing inside Cape Kidnappers to the southwestern end of the Wairoa Hard, which takes in the Napier foreshore, was significantly extended in the case of larger trawlers.
Further, the Lachlan Ridge and Lachlan Banks, which are popular with boaties venturing further out, were closed to commercial hapuku and bass fishing from December 2015 to end September 2017.
In return, the recreational lobby group agreed to drop the bag limit from five to two and avoid the central part of the ridge.
Fisheries Inshore NZ is now involved with a wider group that includes iwi, recreational fishers, Department of Conservation and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to develop a plan for wider management of the coastal marine area that includes land impacting on fisheries.
FINZ chief executive Dr Jeremy Helson said the measures had changed the conversation.
“This process has provided an opportunity to publicly demonstrate responsible fishing practices and our commitment to working with the recreational sector in a shared fishery” he said.
“Also, the connection with local government to improve land use will potentially improve the health of the marine environment.”
LegaSea has responded positively to the commercial initiatives, a marked change from its previous angry rhetoric.
It likened initial meetings two years ago between recreational, commercial and MPI to visiting the dentist for a tooth extraction – not much communication and just as painful.
“We are working in a great space with the local commercial fishers,” LegaSea Hawkes Bay said on its Facebook page.
“We charged them with sorting their own and to their credit they have taken on that responsibility.
“It may be a little early to claim credit but it is great to see good sized snapper coming in off the beach from Te Awanga to Whirinaki. There has been some limits taken in just hours, which has not been heard of for many, many years.”
Napier Fishermen’s Association president Mike Terry added to the conversation.
“It’s great to see some positive things being done on both sides,” he said. “The time has come to stop slinging mud at each other. That gets nobody anywhere, just a lot of ill feelings toward each other.”
“Time well spent building relationships and understanding everybody’s needs,” Bob Gutsell added.
Recreational fishers are happy too.
“Been doing well on snapper in the Te Awanga area this season,” Blair Whiting confirmed. “Even caught some large gurnard in close. No big snapper yet but I’m waiting for that big run. Good to see the closure is having an effect on stock.”
“Has been the best snapper fishing ever this year off TA (Te Awanga),” said Brad Pinker. “Good solid fish since October. Good job. Keep up the awesome work.”
LegaSea also conceded it could have done a better job of spreading the word that the central zone of the popular Lachlan Banks was a no-fishing area for both commercial and recreational sectors.
“We also need to convey that this is a voluntary measure but if we want the commercial guys to step up, which they are, then so do we.”
And there was a plea not to be too greedy.
“While there have been some great bags taken by some over the last few months, please remember there are limits.”
The turnaround from previous years could hardly be greater.