Fewer Fish in Paradise, the loss of fish in New Zealand waters

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Tim Lynch

Within the biosphere we think that global environmental pollution and problems etc are out there, somewhere overseas, over the horizon, which in NZ is still quite clear when you look out to sea. BUT getting more hazier every decade, which is a concern as it is something we can not really see.

However, as we have a small population of just over 4 million people we have had little impact, but that is changing rapidly as we maximise profits by extracting resources where ever we can.

As neo liberal policies of exploitation start to have a greater affect across our country, 'business as usual' is the continuous mantra of government. They are now wanting to double our fish catch from the seas by 2025 as well as double our dairy production by 2025. Exploitation is the order of the day. The use of the word 'sustainable in an ecological context' had been expunged by our Government.

2007: When we look at the microcosm of whats happening on earth. Where I'm living in New Zealand on Aucklands North Shore, between Takapuna and Milford, with the blue/green Hauraki Gulf lapping the bays, I daily look out at or walk on the beach and around the lava.

Where once when I was a kid in the 50s and 60s you could find fish swimming in abundance, plenty of small fish, like mau mau, patiki, porouri, sprats, cod and piper. Plus, there were shrimp in the rock pools, baby mussels on the rocks, oysters, barnacles, limpets, cats eyes you name it. I remember digging up pippies (small tasty molluscs) from Milford beach in 1969. Today ... nothing. All gone!

Now the area is occupied by far fewer seagulls, with a couple of lonely cormorants or shags patrolling the two kilometres of rocks and beaches and the constant reconnaissance up to a kilometre out by solitary gannets ... the marine life along the fore shore has all but disappeared.

With urban run off from storm water, roads, detergents from car washing, paints and herbicides that eventually get into the water there is an urgent need for conscious choices by community to desist from such practices.

At storm water pipes that outflow into the sea, there are now Council signs telling us not to eat any shellfish, plus signs telling children not to play around the storm water drain pipe outlets. These problems plus the fact that treated sewage that has not been completely neutralised and filtered is pumped 4 kilometres out to sea, has to be far more effectively treated than we have now. Laws will need to be maximised against coastal pollution and enforced.

Recently, I ran into a marine biologist who has been researching NZ fishing stocks for snapper, one of the most delicious tasting fish. He says they are rapidly declining in numbers, especially in the Bay of Plenty a 200 kilometre length coast line and though the public blame the commercial trawlers for the problem, he said it is now the recreational fishermen who are at fault. If 5,000 people are fishing every day around the country and are catching 2 fish each, (some have been catching up to 10 a trip) and multiply this by 365 days that equates to a huge number of fish being taken out of the localised gene pool, with no replacement. (However, on information that came out at the end of 2015 the stats show that 94% of fish taken are by the commercial trawling sector and only 6% by recreational fishing.)       

The sardonic twist here in NZ  is that for years we have been watching a number of fishing TV programs where one can go out with the resident TV fisherman and catch fish willynilly. Stating that NZ still has plenty of fish to catch, heaps of them ... that is what they are saying. They never mention the challenge of conservation and declining fishing stocks.

A recent specialist from over seas said that NZ needs to close down 1/3 of its fishing grounds to conserve stocks. Yet, fishermen, be it commercial or recreational feel they have an unlimited right to any fish in NZ waters, without becoming involved virtually in any conservation measures whatsoever.

Take, take, take, yet we breathe ... an in breath and an out breath, life is a balance, of ebb and flow, giving and receiving, but the fishermen apparently fail to comprehend equilibrium, stability and the gifts of life from the ocean.

Post Script: Mid May 2016

How things change!  The NZ commercial catch I now learn is 94% and only 6% is by recreational fishermen. The Hauraki Gulf is under huge pressure and the Government have increased the minimum size of the snapper being caught, and decreased the number per fisherman to only 7 fish each - per day.

The commercial fishermen have devastated certain areas of NZ and sold the catch very cheaply over seas, a dollar a fish for the once plentiful kahawai, that was used for animal feed or fertiliser

What a surprise, I was invited to the 2016 - NZ Fishing Symposium at Snells Beach, 400 meters from my home.When I was there I sat down to a meal with a Professor Daniel Pauley of British Columbia and I asked him if he knew of the Professor from Canada who said to an audience (which I was in) way back in 2003, that NZ needed to close off 1/3 of its fishing area, and he said that it was him, who said that!  How's that for a fluke (synchronicity) - and we still have to curtail our commercial fishing, however one of the largest NZ fishing fleets has for its CEO, the President of the NZ National Party, the governing party in power in Parliament. So we can see how vested interests get in the way of our common future.  

Challenges a plenty.  


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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'