From the Helm


Is Shane Jones’ controversial appointment as Minister for Oceans and Fisheries a bad thing for recreational anglers?
On the face of it, most would say, “Yes!”
Late last year he promised to be a “forceful” advocate for the commercial fishing industry, and he does not shy away from his long history directing the slinging of fish to overseas markets.
Jones was the inaugural chair of Te Ohu Kaimoana (the trust for Māori commercial fishing rights) and former chairman of Sealord, overseeing the sale of half of Sealord’s operating company to Japanese firm Nissui. He also has a record of (legitimate) political donations received from commercial fishing companies.
Nevertheless, on the topic of the Hauraki Gulf / Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill introduced to Parliament at the end of the previous Government’s tenure, Jones says: “I don’t know where the ball will bounce.”
Based on the policies and rhetoric so far, I expect he’ll put the proposed High Protection Areas (that would have excluded recreational fishers from many popular areas) on the scrap heap but maintain existing trawl zones – in essence, a win-loss for Hauraki Gulf anglers.
The Ngāti Kahu descendant’s stance on Māori customary fishing is intriguing. On exemptions for customary harvest under protection areas, Jones is frank.
“There’s one part of it that I was alarmed about, that there were going to be closures to secure better outcomes for local stocks, highly localised areas, but an exemption made for the local tangata whenua, that they could continue to harvest. I don’t like that.
“If the situation is so severe and the science says it’s so severe, then we all stand shoulder to shoulder as Kiwis and for a period of time we lock it down.”
Then there was the recent incident where some members of a Far North iwi protested the Doubtless Bay Fishing Classic, setting up blockades at boat ramps. Jones labelled the protest a “publicity stunt” and expected police to maintain law and order to ensure the contest went ahead. He said the event, and others such as the 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza, put millions of dollars into the Far North economy every year – money he sees as beneficial to many of the hapū protesting.
From the outside looking in, I’d say Jones is a champion for commerce, rather than commercial fishing per se. Perhaps then, the onus is on us to demonstrate that there are greater overall socioeconomic benefits when inshore fisheries are managed at more abundant levels, as opposed to the horrible oscillation between collapse and rebuild that prevailing management settings encourage.
Nick Jones Editor