In a letter to the prime minister, director-general of health, minister of fisheries, and police, the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council (NZSFC) is requesting the use of boats for sustenance fishing under COVID-19 Level 3.
Last week, the government announced shore-based fishing would be permitted once New Zealand shifts to Alert Level Three; the move will take place at 11:59pm on Monday, 27 April 2020. However, activities such as boating are still banned, as they are considered too risky.
However, Bob Gutsell, president of NZSFC says that although they appreciate the relaxation of rules under Level 3 to allow recreational fishing from beaches, “the sad reality and outcome of the management of our inshore fishery means that the majority of the public that fish for sustenance cannot reasonably expect to catch a feed of fish for their family when fishing from the shore.”
He added, “A number of people are not physically able to fish from shore and can only fish from a boat. Allowing boating for the purpose of sustenance fishing, at best poses an infinitesimal additional, or more likely a far lesser risk, to both personal safety and spread of the virus, than attending supermarkets, schools, walking in parks, mountain biking on cycling tracks, or allowing the public back on beaches and wharves, to fill with beachgoers, swimmers, surfers, and fishers.”
Coastguard NZ has urged all boaties to stay away from the water during the lockdown, and NZFC says that while they see the risk associated with having to break Coastguard volunteer bubbles to perform a rescue operation, they think the risk can be mitigated.
“We observe that the fishing and boating community have a long history of supporting and resolving issues at sea within themselves/with each other without the necessity of Coastguard intervention,” Gutsell said.
“We propose that if you can do so safely, you should be able to fish for your ‘bubble’ to put food on the table.”
Gutsell’s suggested guidelines include fishing for food, sustenance without compromising bubble; a buddy support system where boats going fishing do so with another suitable boat as pre-arranged support, with VHF and/or cell phone communications; allowing boats to travel up to five nautical miles; and to stay based at local launching sites.