How trout and freshwater sports fishing might be impacted by the indigenous freshwater fish amendment bill.

Relationship between fisheries management agencies and legislation

Fisheries are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), fish and game councils, and iwi. Most of the legislative provisions sit in the Fisheries Acts and the Conservation Act, but there are also some fisheries management arrangements (generally for marine fisheries) in Treaty settlement legislation.

The Conservation Act contains a provision (section 26ZG) that sets out how some of the fisheries legislation fits together. But that section is out of date and could be improved by clearer drafting, for example it doesn’t include the Fisheries Act 1996 and it is unclear whether a bag limit set under the Fisheries Act means that none of the Conservation Act controls apply, or only some specific types of controls.

The proposed amendments bring the section up to date, including mentioning Treaty settlement legislation. It also clarifies what effect a control under other legislation has on the Conservation Act controls.

Because section 26ZG applies to all of Part 5A of the Conservation Act, it affects some sports fisheries provisions. The new wording will reduce the risk that a Fisheries Act control will affect those provisions.

There has been concern that mention of Treaty settlement legislation in the new provision means that Treaty settlement legislation will suddenly affect fisheries management. That is not the case. If a new piece of legislation of any type contains fisheries management provisions that over-ride Conservation Act provisions, nothing in the Conservation Act will alter that. To date, no Treaty settlement legislation has affected sports fisheries management.

Relationship between indigenous fish plans and sports fish plans

The Conservation Act provides for a range of management plans to be prepared, including fisheries plans. It already sets out the hierarchy of plans, and how DOC or fish and game councils need to consider each other’s plans when preparing their own.

The Act states that a sports fish plan “cannot derogate from” an indigenous fish plan. DOC was concerned that this might require sports fish plans to be rewritten if there was a minor conflict between the plans. The Bill therefore adds a provision to say that if there is a conflict, the indigenous fish plan will prevail. That will allow the sports fish plan to continue in place.

Revocation of old regulations

The Bill revokes some old regulations, made in 1983. Two regulations related to when native fish can be caught have been replaced by new provisions in the Bill. The others – one relating to electric fishing and some relating to movement of aquatic life – have already been superseded by new provisions in the Act and were not being implemented.

While there is a difference in how fish and game councils are referred to in the regulations and the Act in relation to movement of aquatic life, this doesn’t remove any current arrangements, as the regulations aren’t being implemented.

Removal of trout from water bodies

Some anglers have been concerned that the Bill will enhance the ability of DOC to remove trout from waterbodies. The Bill does not change the status quo in that regard. In some circumstances, sports fish are removed from waterbodies, including where they have been illegally introduced or where there are important natural values that need to be protected. It is not expected that there would be any change in how the existing powers are used.

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