LegaSea’s Rescue Fish plan, released two weeks ago, is apparently the answer to ‘restoring fish stocks and revitalising New Zealand’s commercial fishing sector’.

The plan is so full of false assumptions and bewildering ‘fixes’, that debating it is like building a plane out of bananas and being encouraged to discuss why it can’t fly.

But we will try. A good place to start is realising that LegaSea has built the plan around premises that are just plain wrong.

The Quota Management System (QMS) that they claim is broken is held up as one of the leading fisheries management schemes in the world. We don’t say that, the world says that. The assertion that a few huge corporates own all the quota is also wrong – there are close to 1,300 quota holders, big and small, and they are all New Zealanders.

That this is a ‘powerful lobby of commercial interests’ that ‘block initiatives to rebuild commercial fish stocks’ also needs a little scientific examination. Of the 684 stocks in the QMS, 29 are assessed as overfished. All have rebuild plans in place. MPI is currently consulting on changes to catch limits, 22 of the 23 changes are to increase catch limits, hardly the sign of fisheries in decline.

Let’s now look at the so-called solutions to those flawed assumptions.

LegaSea want the Crown to buy back all existing rights to fish at a fair value. NZIER who did the analysis around the banana plane, reckon that would cost $1.7 billion. Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the cost to the Crown would be closer to $5 billion. In a time of deepening recession.

There is also the small matter of the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty settlement process and the trampling of Article 2, with no consultation. Well, good luck with that because in Maori fishing circles words like ‘barbarous colonialisation’ are already being thrown about in relation to the Rescue Fish plan. It would turn Maori from owners and users of the resource, who determine their own participation and destiny, into beneficiaries of the Crown who get the table scraps unwanted by LegaSea.

So, once the Crown buys all the quota, LegaSea proposes fixed term commercial permits be sold via a tender process. Only vessel owners will be allowed to tender, and a limit will be placed on how much fishing they can do. To participate in the commercial industry, you will also be prohibited from being both a fisher and a processer – you must choose one or the other. Why would you buy a vessel in the hope you might win a tender to fish? And why would you open a processing site if you had no idea whether you would have any fish to process?

This is a cynical piece of advocacy by LegaSea. It proposes to solve problems that do not exist and deny New Zealanders who do not fish the ability to access seafood.

It is a banana plane and it will not fly.