The situation with snapper 1, as with most real world situations, is extremely complex.
While I agree with many of your points, some are inaccurate.
Most observers on the ground seem to agree that snapper are still recovering – not as fast as many would like, and there are many reasons for that. According to the model the big problem area is the Bay of Plenty, and there are strong anecdotal reasons to mistrust the data used for that model even more that that used for the Hauraki Gulf and Northland – and there could still be real issues in the Bay.
I agree that taking commercial quota without compensation is not an option to be considered.
The approach you recommend is a possible approach, and it could still lead to declining fish stocks.
Most people don’t really want to look at the numbers.
Half a million people fishing, and 3,000 T of fish, comes down to 6Kg each per year (10 fish) – on average.
So for some people to catch 7 per day often, most others have to catch under 5 per year.
We need to get people thinking “fishing for a feed”.
If people want to go sport fishing, then they need to use barbless hooks, and learn how to handle and release effectively.
Lots of things we can do, and to me, the response from government seems to be a good balanced step on the path.
And, as you say, it is going to get more difficult.
As abundance increases, fish will become easier to catch, more people will want to go fishing, and we will need to change behaviour patterns and expectations even more.
We have to stop pretending that a lot of people can take a lot of fish frequently.
The other big thing that needs to be acknowledged is that all fish ultimately come from sunshine. Plants capture sunlight and use it to turn CO2 into complex molecules like proteins, fats and sugars, and other things eat them, and on it goes.
We are not making any more sunshine – so taking thousands of tons of stuff out of the water as mussels must have an effect on everything else – several actually, as mussels eat fish eggs as well as plants and small plant eating animals.
The huge expansion of mussel farms must have a noticeable effect – possibly exceeding that of fishing (plan is to take mussel production to 60,000T, even allowing 15:1 trophic level adjustment, that is 4,000 T of snapper we can’t take out – more than the recreational take).
Don’t expect any acknowledgement of that from the owners of the expanded mussel farm areas.
So it is a very complex situation, with many influences, and while property rights have proven to be an effective tool in the realm of managing commercial fishing pressure, I have some severe reservations about attempting to introduce them to recreational fishing.
Perhaps a hybrid of people who buy commercial quota and use it to take fish beyond the recreational limits might be a first step.
I would dearly love for you to put your financial support behind the FishnFuture Search initiative – now called Our Fishing Future (http://fishinfuturesearch.co.nz) – to build a coherent base for recreational involvement in the policy, science, and political debates that will define the nature of our fisheries in the future.