Government fishing reforms step in right direction but not much will change without quota overhaul - fishing groups

Fishing groups say the Government's reforms are a step in the right direction - but without an overhaul to the quota management system, not much will change.

On Thursday, Newshub revealed the Government plans to ban discards - meaning everything pulled up must be brought to shore.

Napier commercial fisherman Karl Warr is committed to transparency and sustainability - he livestreams his boat 24/7 and uses his own cage to ensure he only catches legal-sized fish.

"Seeing a whole lot of small fish being caught and killed - which is next year's catch, which is next year's adults to spawn - seeing that wasted, effectively, is just not morally good," he says. 

His steel cage filters out undersized fish - anything smaller than the holes can get out is unharmed.

"The cage is a low-hanging fruit attempt at just trying to clean up the discard situation we're already facing."

He says solving the issue of bycatch and discard would be the fishing industry's holy grail. But to date, Warr says his method has had little support from industry and the Government.

"I get a lot of praise and a lot of 'that's a great idea' but not a lot of back-up, tangibly."

The Government is now telling skippers to bring everything they catch back to port, even if it's below quota size. Legasea, which represents recreational fishers, says it's a good start.

"If we would actually address the root cause, which is an over-allocation of quota, and destructive fishing techniques, then we'd see some overall changes to the health of the marine environment, and we'd see it really quickly," LegaSea program lead Sam Woolford says.

And seeing how many undersized fish are being pulled in should give a good idea of how big the problem is.

"Because that will come off their quota, they'll be more inclined to fish sustainably, fish more selectively, or work out a way to utilise all of the fish they're catching."

For more transparency out at sea, the Government's putting cameras on 300 vessels by 2024 - but Greenpeace says that's too slow.

Executive director of Greenpeace Aotearoa Russel Norman says cameras were "identified as the solution five years ago".

He says the dumping ban is the biggest hit in a lifetime, to an industry not used to taking a loss - but is wary about how it'll respond.

"If we just give them more quota then nothing will be gained - so it's important they don't get more quota for simply following the law."

Both LegaSea and Greenpeace say a ban on bottom trawling should be next - but so far, that's not on the Government's to-do list.