Coastal Changes

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[ 5/6/20 Comment on DoC Albatross camera website on a school of fish “We had a birds eye view!”]

We did indeed. I’ve had quite a few of them too. I used to be a keen pilot, and when I was courting Ailsa in Kaikoura 30 years ago I lived near Thames, and used to fly down in a Cesna 172. I would usually come down the coast from Blenheim to Kaikoura at about 500 ft, looking at all the schools of fish as I went. Back then there were still large schools of Kahawai around, before they were fished out by the purse seiners. Got to see that process happening when we moved to Kaikoura 22 years ago, and I would regularly fly up the coast to work on projects in Wellington and sometimes beyond in Napier and Gisborne.

And that leads me to the topic of rule based systems and bureaucracies, and where they often fail.

MPI wanted a set of rules to follow for fisheries management, so they settled on the notion of Catch Per Unit Effort (CPUE) as a proxy for abundance. When fish species are fairly widely dispersed, and catching technologies are fairly close to random (like trawling or set netting), then that assumption set works reasonably well across quite a range of abundance. However, when you have species like Kahawai or Mackerel that school up into very confined spaces, and catching technologies like purse seining directed by spotter planes, then the CPUE stays essentially the same right up to the moment that you catch the last school of fish (which is essentially what happened to the kahawai off Kaikoura, as 3 purse seine vessels took out 10,000 tons over ten years and then the kahawai disappeared). In my courting days I would fly over schools that extended for miles. In recent years the biggest school I have seen was maybe 100m across, and most are much smaller.

It is one of the profound failure modalities that comes out of institutions setting rules, when reality seems to actually be sufficiently complex that all rule sets will fail in some contexts, and what institutions really need to be doing is empowering individuals to use their intelligence to try out new ways of producing the best possible outcomes. And best in this sense needs to have reasonable metrics of the ecosystem requirements present as well as any sets of more human centric values that may be present.

And yeah – nice to have a “bird’s eye” view of what was probable a few small schools of kahawai, but may well have been mackerel. Good to see them starting to return if it was kahawai.

[followed by]

Hi Christine,

Here in NZ most inshore species are actually in a better situation than they were 40 years ago, Kahawai being one of the exceptions.

For all its warts and flaws, the Quota Management System has largely worked much better than any of the alternatives that were available for consideration in the late 70s when NZs inshore fisheries were largely in crisis, largely for political reasons (Muldoon wasn’t as all knowing as he thought he was – and made some serious errors, and to be fair to him, he was facing deeply complex issues of international law – it is a long story).

And part of it is much deeper and wider issues with economics, and the whole notion of measuring value in markets – but if we go down that rabbit hole we might not see much of Pippa for a few days ;).

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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