While targeting commercial fishing, the Government is more concerned about marketing.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said as much, admitting there would be an economic impact on the fishing industry “but there would be a positive effect for Brand New Zealand”.
The plan proposes a dramatic extension of set net and trawling bans along the North Island west coast and harbours from Cape Reinga to Wellington and large areas both north and south of Bank’s Peninsula on the South Island’s east coast.
This is additional to the 6000 square kilometres already closed to commercial fishing, the introduction of a camera trial supported by Sanford and Moana, observers on vessels and confirmation disease represents a bigger threat.
And it is despite the latest Department of Conservation five-yearly threat status review recording an improved outlook for Hector’s, with an estimated population of 15,700.
Maui dolphins, an indistinguishable sub species of Hector’s, remain critically endangered with an estimated adult population of less than 100 and the industry is highly supportive of science-based measures to protect them.
The TMP estimates commercial set netting causes one Maui dolphin death every 10 years and one in every 50 years in the trawl fishery.
Nash correctly says no one wants to catch a dolphin but is on shakier ground declaring “the fishing industry understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it”.
That does not mean the industry agrees with it.
As Radio NZ headlined “cats, not fishing nets, are by far the biggest threats to dolphins”.
The TMP confirms that.
Toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a hardy microscopic parasite that is spread by cat faeces and carried in streams and rivers to the ocean, is the main cause of mortality, according to research led by NIWA marine scientist Dr Jim Roberts.
An action plan is proposed but moggies are safe - there is no mention of radical Gareth Morgan-style measures.
Scores of Maori families fishing in North Island west coast harbours are among those standing to be affected by the proposed extensions to current restrictions.
The Treaty partner is acknowledged in the announcement although there is no specific reference to the Government’s obligations under the Deed of Settlement, which recognised the fishing rights embodied in the Treaty of Waitangi.
The previous government stumbled over those obligations in failing to consult on its unilateral declaration of a Kermadecs sanctuary.
Further disadvantaging Maori and wider coastal communities throughout provincial New Zealand does not sit easily with the professed “wellbeing” approach to governance.
While Nash and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage fronted the media conference on Monday, they repeatedly referenced the Prime Minister.
The Beehive ninth floor is clearly driving this one.
As New Plymouth-based trawlerman Curly Brown said on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, he had been fishing for 38 years and is yet to see a Maui dolphin, let alone catch one.
Brown, the sole remaining Taranaki-based trawler operator, stands to be driven out of business if further fishing grounds are closed.
The independent Egmont Seafoods, which processes and retails the catch from the port’s six fishing vessels, providing employment for 40 people and their families, will also be among those businesses in jeopardy.
“A big concern is people’s physical and mental health,” embattled owner Keith Mawson said.
For the anti-commercial fishing lobby, whatever restrictions are imposed are never enough, ludicrously labelling even the most extreme option presented “a pathway to extinction”.
They will seemingly only be satisfied when all boats are tied up and chips are served with tofu rather than fish.
“Consultation” on the revised restrictions closes on August 4 but everything points to a done deal.
There are some rough waters ahead.