Major changes proposed to commercial fishing by Government

The Government is proposing major changes to commercial fishing. 

It includes the option of removing minimum size limits for finfish, and forcing skippers to bring all fish caught back to shore.

Currently, tiny snapper are being thrown overboard after being crushed in trawl nets - dead or dying. Under current rules, this is lawful. In fact, it's a requirement. 

But among the big changes on the cards is the possibility of requiring commercial skippers to bring everything back - even the small ones.

"I think what we will see if we require everything to be landed is we will see a lot more innovation in the way people do fish," Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash says. 

So it's possible, if accepted, that Kiwis could see smaller fish and fillets for sale. But there's concern that'll only create a new problem: big boats targeting small fish. 

Recreational fishing lobby group Legasea works to restore coastal fisheries, and spokesperson Scott Mcindoe says they're concerned.

"They will quickly develop markets for those little wee fish. Again it's the issue of the method that's being ignored. We've got to stop catching small fish. It's nonsense."

He says it's the method of bottom trawling that's the problem. 

"Mobile bottom contact fishing methods are no longer acceptable in the inshore fishery."

But Fisheries Inshore NZ chief executive Dr Jeremy Helson says it's a "red herring".

"Trawling can be a very specific method, it can be quite targeted."

Mr Nash says they won't go as far as to ban trawling.

If adopted, such a rule could result in the commercial sector being allowed to take more.

The industry doesn't like the idea of bringing everything back, but says if that was in place, it wouldn't mean fishers would go after small ones.

"I think its unlikely; the industry will target fish where there's a better economic return and generally thats not the small ones," said Dr Helson.

The idea behind landing everything is that it would also stop illegal high-grading, where poor-quality fish are thrown overboard so fresher, better-condition ones can be caught. 

As well as scrapping minimum legal size, there's also the options of increasing the number of species where a minimum legal size will be required or leaving the rules as they are.

All of the public can make submissions. 

The proposal also suggests a shake-up of offences for illegal fishing to make the system fairer.

So for example, if you got caught illegally dumping a few fish you'd get fined, but if you were caught breaching the rules on multiple occasions, you'd be fined and have your vessel and fishing gear seized.