Coronavirus Covid-19 Delta: Generous fisherman gives away $12k of fish to people in need

A generous fisherman has given away 3 tonnes of fish worth $12,000 to families in need during lockdown.

Santy Maria skipper Roger Rawlinson (Ngāti Awa) is from Tauranga but decided to relocate his vessel to Northland where he knew the need was great.

As part of his annual customary fishing quota, Rawlinson decided to base himself in the Far North and give away kaimoana to families in need.

The father of three has been contracted to Moana New Zealand in Mangonui since 1992 and during that time has built up relationships with local tangata whenua.

During lockdown he worked with a variety of local hāpu, giving away about three tonnes of fish, worth around $12,000.

Roger Rawlinson is today’s Lockdown Hero.

He said he knew a lot of people were doing it tough in the Far North and this was his way of giving back.

“We’ve got customary permits which state which hāpu get the fish, the quantity and the area it has to be harvested from,” Rawlinson said.

“During this year and last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, I relocated the Santy Maria up here knowing there would be a greater need for customary fishing.

“There’s a lot of people struggling in the Far North and I’m just doing my bit as a Māori fisherman.

“It means a lot to me knowing tamariki and older people who can’t get out of the house because of lockdown are getting a fresh feed of fish.

In New Zealand there are three different quotas allocated to fishing each year – recreational, customary and commercial.

Customary fisheries are recognised fishing rights of tangata whenua for traditional and customary practices that take place in their respective rohe moana.

As part of Rawlinson’s customary catch, local hāpu from Taupo Bay, Bay of Islands, Taipa and others were grateful recipients of this week’s quota.

A mix of snapper, kingfish and gemfish were given away which are the most abundant species in this area.

Moana Wood of Ngāti Rua picked up fish for her hāpu on Sunday, which was to be distributed to kaumātua, kuia and families across the Ngāti Rua rohe.

Wood said these types of donations often meant the difference between putting food on the table or going hungry.

“We’ve had quite a change in Māori society where people who would ordinarily go and find kaimoana themselves no longer do that and use supermarkets instead.

“At times like this, especially during Covid-19 where there are lots of people struggling, this is one way to give back to our whānau.”

The fish was distributed to more than 60 families, as well as non-Māori in the community, either isolated or in need.

Wood said the feedback from the community had been overwhelming.

“The amount of people who phone and email or text me and tell me they’re so grateful is amazing,” Wood said.

“The fact that Roger and his family run their business means they understand what it’s like to feed whānau which is huge.

Rawlinson will be based in Mangonui for the next few months, where he’ll continue to work with local tangata whenua to supply them with fish.

He said while the commercial fishing industry had copped a lot of flak over the years, the reality on the ground was not as bad as people thought.

“Each year we’re allocated our different quotas and I never come close to what we could fish,” Rawlinson said.

“I’ve been fishing the same area for 25 years and every time I come back up here, I catch the same amount.

“That says to me if you can fish the same amount each year, you’ve left enough from the previous year. That’s a simple fact of sustainable fishing.

“Me landing three tonnes might sound like a lot, but if local people could catch fish themselves, they’d catch more than that.

“I want people to know that commercial fishermen aren’t all bad guys, we’re good guys and are trying our hardest to work sustainably. In some areas there are now more fish now than ever before.”

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