From this month onwards recreational anglers are only permitted to catch one bluefin tuna per person, per day, with Fisheries New Zealand introducing a daily bag limit from June 1.
The new rule, which was announced by FNZ on April 18, now applies to all amateur fishers in New Zealand fisheries waters.
Southern bluefin tuna is a high value species currently subject to a regional rebuilding plan under the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna. The CCSBT, which NZ is a founding member of, internationally manages the specie and sets global total allowable catch rates in three-year blocks, using a management procedure.
FNZ acting director of fisheries management Steve Halley says this is the first time a catch limit has been put in place for the recreational southern bluefin tuna fishery and reflects the need to carefully manage the rebuild of this stock.
“Estimates of recreational catch in this fishery have been low in previous years, however, in July 2017 we saw a substantial increase in how much was being caught.”
According to an FNZ discussion document prior to the decision being made, for the three-year block from 2018 to 2020, the CCSBT raised the global total allowable catch by 3000 tonnes, to 17,647 tonnes per annum. As a result, NZ’s national allocation increased by 88 tonnes, to 1088 tonnes per annum.
And previously, NZ’s recreational catch for southern bluefin tuna was typically low, with no catch reported in 2014, then 1.1 tonnes reported in 2015, and 1.4 tonnes reported in 2016. This formed the basis of a FNZ decision to increase the recreational allowance from eight to 20 tonnes.
But in 2017 the reported recreational catch increased substantially to an estimated level of 24.3 tonnes. “Social media posts, good catch rates, and favourable weather conditions attracted hundreds of anglers to the Eastern Bay of Plenty to target these fish,” according to the 2018 FNZ discussion document.
Steve says following consultation and receiving responses from tangata whenua and submissions from stakeholders, FNZ advised the Minister of Fisheries to introduce a daily limit for the recreational fishery.
“Introducing a bag limit will ensure that NZ continues to meet its international obligations under the CCSBT.
“NZ is a founding member of CCSBT, which regionally manages this highly migratory species and we have an obligation to manage our catch of southern bluefin tuna within our national allocation.
“FNZ will be looking at longer-term measures to manage this fishery, but in the interim, a bag limit will be in place until we understand more about this highly variable developing fishery.”