Yesterday I once again attended the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s annual seminar. When I first saw that the lineup included Volker Kuntzsch from Sanford I cringed. I personally don’t distinguish eating our native fish from eating our native birds, and I am deeply saddened by the relative emptiness or the Hauraki Gulf. The previous year HGF had a fisher (Adam Clow) on stage and although it was hard to watch I really admired the changes he was making to reduce his impact on seabirds. But Sanfords has done so much damage over the decades, I had previously read their PR and latest Annual Report and I was unconvinced that they were doing anything more than trying to fix their brand. I didn’t laugh with the audience as he charismatically joked about us being a tough crowd. But it was nice to see him reflect on what NIWA had just been saying about sediment and desertification – I have hope that one day the Seafood industry will put serious money into lobbying Fonterra to reduce their pollution of our waterways.

However like the rest of the audience I was blown away by his final slide. He said he was happy to pull out of the Hauraki Gulf! (I think they have about 9 of the 50 or so boats that commercially fish the gulf.) But on one condition, recreation fishers must report their catch. Apparently it’s done overseas, but of course voluntary reporting of recreational fishing catch must be very unscientific, why is he doing this? Because it’s hard to report? To shift the blame? Because catch in the Hauraki Gulf is low ROI? Or because they are being kicked out anyway? Who knows, fishing politics is very complex.

The awesome thing was Scott Macindoe from the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council was in the audience and the two decided to chat about solutions. We all cheered, including me. It takes a lot of courage to invite those who profit from environmental degradation to these events and even more courage for those businesses to show up. But if we don’t emerge from our silos then we are just going to get more of the same. I am inspired.

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