I am passionate about the sea and keen to take the mystery out of what happens when a vessel disappears behind the horizon line and starts catching fish. If people know where we work and why we do things the way we do, and that our industry is science based and sophisticated, it’s not such a big jump to think we take the challenge of responsible fishing seriously.
While not born into a fisher family the coast and the wellbeing of our communities supported by the sea matter to me. I care.
In my job as Industry Liaison Manager at Sanford, a large New Zealand seafood company. I am a conduit between our people, the ocean environment and other marine users – officials, seafood companies, eNGOs, dolphins. Sanford’s goal is ocean leadership; to be the world’s best seafood company. For me that means continually striving for excellence, looking beyond the first solution to find the best.
When Sanford and Moana New Zealand, another large Maori fishing company, set about finding a lasting resolution to the endangered Maui dolphin it may have been possible (but short sighted) to stop fishing along the west coast of the North Island. And it wasn’t necessary – already our government had permanently protected the dolphin’s core habitat. The real challenge we thought was to find a way for commercial fishers to be valued as part of the Maui solution, we are after all the ones out on the water every day.
Marine conservation is expensive – it needs to be done in tandem with economic development but more often conservation ends up alienating local fisher communities. Creating marine protected areas will not necessarily produce long term sustainable solutions – prohibiting areas from fishing just pushes people to overcrowding those areas that can be fished. The harder challenge is to change behaviour on the water, and the way that we fish so that people and the marine environment are more aligned. Able to co-exist in the same space.
Me, I’m an actions girl. I believe in intervention, people and science. I want to get in there and do something practical, not just count down a species and point my finger at trawl nets (that despite populist thinking are not known to have killed a Maui dolphin).
For the last two years Sanford and Moana have been identifying the risks to the dolphin (both real and perceived) and working to target solutions at activities that make a tangible difference on the water. For example, when it wasn’t clear if harbour set net vessels were keeping outside the prohibited fishing areas (although fishers said they did), we asked them to carry vessel tracking systems on their small <6m boats. When we couldn’t find a tracking system that was suitable, we developed a cell phone app. We will aggregate the vessel tracking data, overlay this with areas where Maui dolphin have been cited and if there is a spatial overlap – sit down with the fishers and talk through a solution. We are fishing companies that want to help other fishers.
Sanford and Moana have identified a positive solution for just about every fishing method – other than coastal set netting north of New Plymouth that has been modelled as the most at risk fishing method. Maui dolphins and set net fishers share the surf zone. With these set net fishers we are working with WWF –New Zealand to find transitional funding to assist them to move from netting to dolphin safe long lining.
Enduring solutions need to be fair. Some threats to Maui dolphin are unavoidable – like predation by sharks and toxoplasmosis. For the threats that we can change, like commercial fishing we have a responsibility to do what we can for both the dolphins and the fishers who work along the edge of their waters.