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Hon John Luxton
Minister of Fisheries
Thank you for your letter of 8 December 1997. Thank you for the consideration that it entails. I believe it is possible to evolve something that meets all needs, and to do so will require some flexibility from all parties. Again I am making this an open letter in the interest of rapid full consultation.
Your key concern is sustainability, and the need for all catch to be covered by ACE.
Industry's concern is that the system be flexible enough to allow people committed to working within the system to do so consistently (given the range of unknowns and random chance involved in fishing). How can taking a fish from the water on Friday the 30 September be a crime against sustainability punishable by loss of business, whereas taking the fish on Saturday the 1st October is fine - no sustainability concerns. Such rigidity makes no common sense. Section 71 of the 96 Act has far reaching implications, effectively nullifying any defence offered by payment of Deemed Value. That aspect makes the 96 Act orders of magnitude more rigid and inflexible than the 83/86 Act and its amendments.
We all agree that sustainability is our overarching goal.
When you look closely at the 96 Act, it imposes much tighter restraints on catch than the earlier legislation, but still gives an alternative to using ACE, in the payment of Deemed Values and in the By-Catch Trade Off mechanism.
The Associated Species Balancing mechanism, as proposed in my last letter, would provide the flexibility industry needs, but still offers an alternative to using appropriate ACE.
Reading your letter a new possibility occurred as to how we could meet your objectives and industry's. It is not possible to meet both exactly as formulated, but something very close is possible (something much closer than the 1996 Act).
It would be possible to set TACCs on an annual basis, and to ensure that all catch is covered by ACE (usually, though not necessarily, from ACE generated in the year the catch was taken).
This new possibility involves relatively minor modifications to existing structures. Most stay as already suggested:
[Here are the new bits]
These new aspects create a very stable system.
It does have one fundamental flaw from an operational perspective.
As mentioned above, the implications of section 71 makes the 96 Act far more onerous than one might believe at first glance. When one is dealing with outcomes that always have an unpredictable element, what is reasonable?
When one has to deal with the range of possible permutations of unpredictable elements across a range of stocks, the bounds of reasonableness get stretched quite rapidly - depending on perspective. What may look very reasonable to a fishery officer can appear quite unreasonable to a fisher, and vice versa. Much better if we have a system that copes with that internally, rather than resorting to getting a determination from the courts.
Definition of MSY
I realise that this is a complex issue.
It does however appear irrational to have Bmsy as both the "target" and the "bottom line". That makes an assumption of absolute knowledge and absolute control.
To my mind it makes much more sense to have Bmsy as the target, and something like 30% Bmsy as the bottom-line. We can then design controls that can have effective feedback loops. It is impossible to construct an effective feedback control that turns off when it goes fractionally below its optimum. It simply does not make sense, in logic, mechanics or mathematics.
If we have Bmsy as the optimal target, we can design systems to always have some pressure pushing towards that target, but to allow operation below it without catastrophic "cut-off".
Under such a scenario, we could have mixed stock fisheries where the pressures are there to encourage people to avoid catching a stock, while accepting that with current technologies some excess catch is inevitable in some few stocks. In this fashion technology can evolve, and systems can become more responsive. The alternative "cut-off" approach destabilises and prevents investment (introduces a high risk to investors), and so actually works against sustainability in the longer term.
I acknowledge that there are trade-offs from each perspective, and what we need is a system that encourages and rewards innovation and adaptation towards our targets, not one which penalises catastrophically on the basis of random fluctuation.
This is more of a side issue, but an important one.
I raised two issues that were not addressed in your reply.
Fisheries Act 1996 Implementation
I realise the vision of a "standards only" Act may be a wee way off, and it is still an objective worth working towards. We may find that we can make remarkable progress in a short time, if we look for the opportunities.
Thank you for your consideration. I trust this ongoing dialogue will have productive practical outcomes.