When Gareth Morgan set out to address members of the public at the launch of his new book Hook, Line and Blinkers – a critical look at New Zealand’s fishing industry – he didn’t set out to make friends.
Estimates are that excess fishing costs the world $50 billion and the world's fisheries are in critical danger of being over-fished to the point of no return.
New Zealand is no longer a world beater in managing fisheries – we’re currently ranked eighth.
Morgan and co-author Geoff Simmons want New Zealand to once again lead the world in fisheries management. They say in order to do that, we must have more fish in the water, limit the impact of fishing on the environment, create marine reserves in 10 percent of our waters, and license recreational fishers.
Environmentally conscious folk would have thought they were on to a winner when Morgan and Simmons came out firing at overfishing and called for more constraints on both recreational and commercial fishermen’s ‘race to fish’.
But, just in case people were counting their chickens, Morgan also added: “Squawking greenies are no help either. All food production has some impact [on the earth].”
Keith Ingram, ex-president of the Recreational Fishing Council (RFC), angled some criticism back at Morgan and Simmons for not acknowledging the measures the RFC had taken to foster change in sustainable fishing.
Morgan responded by saying he didn’t give a toss about the RFC, which in his view has been a total failure.
Recreational fishermen copped most of the scathing Morgan ire – perhaps because they were the vocal majority in the audience.
Instead of the “ridiculous competition between commercial and recreational fishers,” Morgan wants a holistic approach to managing the fishery which encompasses both. A way to do this would be to zone parts of the ocean in the way that land is zoned in agricultural use, he says.
He also came out firing at charter fishing, asserting that it should registered as a commercial practice.
Michelle Pawson, an environmental advisor who has worked across government, agreed with most of the pair’s major findings, but said: “They have skimmed over identifying usable mechanisms that could help enable change. It is one thing to say we need recreational licensing, but it is another thing to work out how this could be realistically achieved in New Zealand.”
She believes there needs to be a culture shift away from the pioneering attitude of ‘the right to fish’ towards the users of resources taking greater responsibility in protecting the resource.
Similarly, Hook, Line and Blinkers places some of the responsibility on consumers taking leadership roles in their purchases.
Morgan loves fishing. The impetus for the book came about when he returned home from fishing in the Cook Strait with massive hauls, and his family questioned him about the age of the fish he had caught and the necessity of such big catches.
His curiosity was piqued and he sought to answer the questions the way he does best, with an economically based analysis of the situation – in this case the state of New Zealands and the world’s fishery.
More Morgan observations
• “No-one refutes that there are rises in C02 emissions except retards.”
• The “hip young things” who have taken up eating sushi as a healthy and fashionable food are playing a big part in the overfishing of salmon and tuna. To Morgan, the overfishing of tuna for sushi is on par with shark fin fishing.