Fishermen filmed with “thousands” of pink maomao in bins. Video / Supplied
Fisheries Minister David Parker has asked for official advice on how to update the rules regarding recreational catch limits for pink maomao fish.
The move comes after residents of Tairua blocked access to their main wharf and turned out to be numerous because of an alleged “wholesale slaughter” of the species.
The pink maomao, also known as the long-finned perch, is an elusive and unprotected species of fish. They are not included in any recreational catch limit.
Last week, documentary filmmaker Mike Bhana filmed a group of fishermen returning from nearby coastal fisheries with what he said were 1,500 to 2,000 pink maomao fish, a species of great value to Asian markets.
Ngati Hei kaumātua Joe Davis imposed an immediate rahui, calling it a “shocking” abuse of a legislative loophole.
“Stop the abuse of Tangaroa mokopuna. Most species are endangered,” he said.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker said he was aware of the problem and a petition had been launched.
There are over 7,100 signatures on the change.org petition calling for recreational limits to be placed on the pink maomao by the minister.
“I know MPI has received a number of complaints from the Tairua community regarding the illegal sale of pink maomao,” Parker said.
“My managers advise that they are investigating the matter, and I would expect that when there are violations of the rules, they will be dealt with appropriately.
“In the meantime, I have asked officials for advice on how we can update the rules regarding bag limits.”
The day after the images of the maomao’s pink line were published, a group of fishermen arrived at a dock under Mount Paku in Tairua but did not launch their boat. They were told that the vehicle and trailer would not be in the same condition upon their return.
“The fishermen were confronted and said if their car was there in 20 minutes it would be set on fire,” said Bhana, who watched the group put the boat on the trailer and leave soon after.
He said he didn’t believe they were from the same group he filmed the day before with what he estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 pink maomao fish.
“People are really angry and the worry is that someone is doing something stupid and a local is in a mess and these guys are going to continue what they are doing.”
Coromandel-based Facebook pages were created to record and share vehicle sightings, which included 4×4 utes and alloy boats of around 5m to 7m, carrying between five and six fishermen plus a skipper on each.
It was reported last week that some of the vehicles known to have been used by the group of fishermen seen on Thursday had been damaged before the footage was released.
Tairua charter fisherman Jason Harris said he was interested in fishing charters looking for different species of fish, including reef species like pink maomao and leather jackets.
He said via Facebook that Strikezone’s fishing charters had no connection with the perpetrators of the filmed fishing activity.
“Like other charter boats around the country, we take fishermen who wish to target less desirable species and this usually happens over a three month period in mid-winter. Pink maomao are often targeted and a day where they bite well, you could fill the boat with these fish.
“Although there is no quota on them, we have a self-imposed limit of 30 each per angler. We are allowed to take six people, so on a scorching day it is possible to take almost 200 of these fish. “
A storm of comments ensued. “You can set the rules in this situation, so you can set an example for people. It’s way too many fish per person,” said Sophie Parker.
The Legasea recreational fishing lobby advocates a maximum of three pink maomao per person below a recreational limit.
An MPI spokesperson urged people to use its 0800 hotline for poachers if they had any information.