During the October 2022 consultation round on the marine protection proposals for Revitalising the Gulf I asked Govt a few questions. Some of them were quickly answered but a few others were converted into an Official Information Act request. From that I was able to draft this table showing changes in spatial use of the Gulf proposed by the plan, this is important given it’s a Marine Spatial Plan.
A new idea proposed in the plan (based on Sea Change 2017) was that customary fishing could take place withing the High Protection Areas (HPAs). There was no advice provided on how much customary take might happen in the HPAs, this is important as it impacts level of protection provided by the policy. I asked:
“Are you able to supply how much customary fishing (including commercial customary) was undertaken in the proposed HPAs in previous years? This would aid conversations with people concerned about future levels of customary take. I understand catch records may not have precise associated location data, an estimate is fine.”
I received a painfully detailed response. Here is the map and raw data, I spent a few hours with it trying to answer my question. In my opinion the data is unusable. For nearly every population there is a unspecified number given for what was taken. For example:
In 2018 & 219 there were 1,064 kgs of snapper taken as customary catch but there is an additional number of 438 with no unit specified.
If we just stick to the kgs and compare data from 2018 & 2019 to contextualise it with fishing data from the last State of the Environment Report there was about one tonne of tāmure / snapper taken as customary catch. Total commercial take of tāmure in the Gulf was about 1,600 tonnes and recreational take was 2,000 tonnes. So customary catch might only be 0.03% of the total catch and insignificant from a population management perspective. However there is another number of 438 given with unit unspecified. If the number is tonnes then customary catch is 12% of the current catch, spatial changes in this effort would be significant from a population management perspective. The 2022 data is also dominated by unspecified numbers.
I have not been able to use the data to answer my question, the reporting system for recreational and customary take needs an over haul. Its frustrating as there is a great app that has been developed for reporting customary take (IKANET) which must be unused.