Snapper bag limit no April Fools joke

David Shearer - Dead Fish

Remember the snapper debate?  It could have taken down a government, and instead it claimed the leader of the opposition.

Snapper fishers will need to lengthen their rulers and return more fish to the sea from Tuesday as measures to restore the country’s most popular fishery take effect.

This is the last weekend when recreational fishers can legally take home as many as nine snapper with a minimum size of 27cm in the Snapper 1 fishery, which covers the east coast of Northland, the Hauraki Gulf and the Bay of Plenty.  

From April 1, the bag limit drops to seven and the legal minimum size goes up to 30cm.

The changes were signalled last year by Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, but recreational lobbyists remain angry that the restrictions will bite them while commercial fishers remain free to land snapper as small as 25cm.

“It’s ironic that it will be illegal for us to catch fish that the commercial guys can keep,” Legasea spokesman Richard Baker told the Weekend Herald.

He predicts shore-based and harbour fishers who land smaller fish will struggle to take home a feed.

That does seem unfair.  The difference is that by the time a commercial boat has taken fish that is too small, they pretty much aren’t in a state to put them back in the ocean.

But a raft of changes to better monitor commercial activity and obtain a more accurate picture of the fishery’s health are being worked on.

The first scientific tagging survey in the fishery since 1993 is due to begin on October 1.

The industry has introduced a “move on” rule when a high proportion of the catch is juvenile.

Use of on-board cameras and requirements for commercial fishers to report quantities of fish caught below the legal minimum are also expected to improve knowledge of the fishery



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  • Charlie

    Don’t know what the problem is, we never keep anything under 30mm anyway.

    • ex-JAFA

      I hope that was a typo!

      • oldmanNZ

        less than 5inches, back in the sea…we want real men

      • Charlie

        Sure was, I have edited to cm. As John says, “If you have to measure it, put it back.”

    • EveryWhichWayButLeft

      Totally agree. We start with a 35cm min and only revise to 30cm min if it’s getting late and we’ve got nothing to take home. 7 fish is plenty as well.
      We have a max too, somewhere around the 10lb-15lb mark depending on what else we have in the bin.
      Pretty much all the people I fish with follow the same rules, but I guess being up North we’re a little bit lucky with the fishery we have here.

      • unitedtribes

        Harawira just got a really big one and don’t think he is going to throw it back.

    • John

      My rule? if you have to measure it, put it back.

  • thor42

    I agree that reducing the recreational limit while not touching the commercial limit is unfair.

    Having said that, the drop in limit from 9 to 7 isn’t exactly huge. The increase in the minimum-allowable size doesn’t seem to be too bad either.

    The Nats could take all heat out of this issue by promising to cut the allowable commercial catch amount as well (and increasing their minimum-allowable fish size too).

  • James

    I have no problems with upping the size and reducing the bag limits – but if the science is right and this needs to be done then it makes no sense why this isn’t the same for commercial fishermen.

    As it isn’t the case then it is merely government trying to exert its control over its serfs and, as such, continued rebellion is the only moral option. I’ll continue to take the commercial size if it gets to the end of the day and we haven’t caught enough for a couple of feeds.

    • Last Yawl Fibs

      And run the risk of loosing your boat / car ?

      • James

        When was the last time you saw an inspector? I have never seen one.

        • Last Yawl Fibs

          You’re happy to take undersized fish? You sir are the problem.

          • James

            No; I am happy to take fish which are perfectly OK for commercial fishermen to take. If the fish are undersize for recreational fishermen then they don’t suddenly and magically become OK just because you are operating commercially.

            if the size is too small and needs to be increased then it should be increased. But it should be increased for all and not only for some.

    • zack

      LOL,the risk of loosing your car….

      I am quite sure that you need to check these Pranks at Best april fools pranks

      • Guest
  • unitedtribes

    Got so much fish lately the family is objecting. Sausages tonight

  • MarcWills

    Remember the commercial quota is staying the same, but the take by recreational fishers is increasing – just look at the Auckland population increase over the last 10 years, and the corresponding increase in the number out on the water fishing. I’m sure the authorities have some idea of the size of the increase, so will have factored that into their new restrictions. It’s good a new survey will give a more accurate estimate of what we have to preserve.

  • wiltinpenis

    Quote “The difference is that by the time a commercial boat has taken fish that is too small, they pretty much aren’t in a state to put them back in the ocean.”
    This is the key to the differential. As an amateur fisherman, would you want a commercial guy to throw back a 27cm snapper and probably have it not survive, or would you rather have the opportunity to buy that fish in the market?
    And don’t tell me the market prices are exorbitant. If you have, or use a boat to go fishing simply as an amateur, you know what costs are involved. It isn’t cheap.

  • MykillS

    If the commercial fisherman is a long liner, there is no reason why he/she should not operate to exactly the same criteria as the recreational fisher. The conditions for the fish are precisely the same. If they are netting they should at least be required to increase the net hole size then there would not be so much undersize snapper caught. I don’t think this government understands the size of the fishing vote.

  • LegaSea

    Nice to hear of people who already have their own self imposed limits. This proves that the public are willing and wanting to conserve fish. Just remember, not everyone can go fishing in a boat or as many times as you and perhaps many people also like to eat the whole fish not just whip the fillets off. So for some people, especially those who fish from shore, a 27-29cm snapper represents reasonable eating. We encourage people to look beyond their own personal situations and at the bigger picture – you’re being told to cut back so that people in Australia and Asia can continue to eat them, so that the industry can continue to waste them in the water and on land and so that corporate quota owners can grow their personal wealth. That’s the issue – Its not really about what size you personally think is ok etc etc. LegaSea.