National Volunteer Week, Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu (18 to 24 June) is a good time to honour New Zealand’s army of volunteer Honorary Fishery Officers (HFOs) who donate their time and expertise to keep fisheries sustainable, says Fisheries New Zealand’s regional fisheries compliance manager Howard Reid.
New Zealand’s HFOs are volunteers who were critical to protecting the Kaikōura pāua from being overfished by inspecting catches and educating fishers on the rules during the recent recreational season.
The fishery was closed in 2016 for 5 years to recover from the effects of an earthquake that devastated the coastline and has recently recovered allowing for a two-month season which ended on 15 June.
“Fisheries New Zealand fishery officers patrolled the coastline with the dedicated help of our voluntary HFOs. The coast is vast, and we couldn’t have done it without them.
“Our HFOs were along the coast, talking with fishers, checking their catch, educating people on the rules. They’re an invaluable asset and a big part of why we’ve had an over 90% compliance rate,” Mr Reid says.
During the second pāua season, the area from Marfells Beach to Conway River was open for people to gather blackfoot and yellow foot pāua. There were also closed areas and customary management areas where different rules applied.
HFOs were on the beat as often as possible.
“Like a lot of volunteers, our HFOs are selfless people. They do this work voluntarily because they care about their community – our shared fishing resources and protecting them so that future generations can enjoy putting fresh kaimoana on the dinner table. A big part of what they do is talking to people, answering curious questions, and explaining the rules,” says Howard Reid.
HFOs were first introduced in Auckland in 1967 as a way for people in the community to donate their time to help make a difference to local fisheries. Fifty-five years later there are about 180 HFOs working in communities around the country providing advice, conversation, and a watchful eye in the name of sustainability.
These days each HFO contributes a minimum of 100 hours voluntary work a year to looking after recreational fishing areas. They're put through intensive training, wear a uniform, and have a warrant under the Fisheries Act.
“Their work is critical to ensuring sustainability throughout all of our fisheries. HFOs are front and centre on New Zealand's coastlines, conducting between 18,000 and 22,500 inspections each year.
“They're incredible people – all very passionate about protecting the resource, which is evident through the huge amount of voluntary work they do and some HFOs exceed that minimum of 100 hours,” says Howard Reid.
If you have questions about becoming an HFO, email HFO@mpi.govt.nz