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Sustainable coastal fishing model to share

Southern angler Nate Smith has taken the next step in his mission to make inshore fishing sustainable. He tells Rebecca Fox that he shared what he learned.

Confident that he has the recipe for success not only to secure the wild seafood resource for future generations, but also to provide access to it for more New Zealanders, Nate Smith is keen to share it.

So enthusiastic that he secured funding from the government’s Sustainable Food and Fiber program to replicate his “recipe” which he announced at a recent Eat New Zealand Hui.

Smith, a third-generation fisherman, started his own commercial fishing business, Gravity Fishing, five years ago. He only harvests fish on command, using hook and line and killing the fish using the human Japanese Ikijimi method. This fish then goes directly to the customer.

Having proven the model works, Smith has always been keen to encourage more anglers to break away from the industrial fishing model and join what he sees as the future of fishing in New Zealand.

He has developed a ”pod” and an application that draws on all his experience to allow fishermen to follow his path with the infrastructure and documents provided.

“Everything will be streamlined, super easy to do. That’s all I’ve learned, but eliminating the pitfalls.”

Part of the process was to research the “seasonality” of different species of fish so that they were only caught when they had the best nutritional value for humans, and not when breeding, to promote sustainability.

It also meant educating customers about the different finfish and not just choosing the most popular fish.

The ‘pods’ will provide ice making and fish packing facilities and will come with food safety certification. The app will provide anglers with all the data they need and the ability to connect with customers and order fish.

“It will be like an online fish market where the fisherman uploads his plan for the day, what species of fish are in season and people can order.”

Once the fisherman has caught what is ordered, customers are notified, the fisherman returns to shore, unloads the ‘pod’ packing facility, and the fish is sent directly to the customer.

He recently received funding for two ‘pods’, one to be placed on the lower North Island and the other on Stewart Island.

”It’s close to my heart. It’s my house. We have to deal with it,” he said.

The modules are being built in Christchurch based on a ‘prototype’ designed by Smith and will hopefully be completed in six to eight weeks.

In the meantime, he is finalizing the licensing and food safety certification for them.

While he admits it’s a big step for fishermen to move away from guaranteed incomes provided by big commercial fishing companies, many are beginning to realize they don’t want to be part of the problems that overfishing is causing.

“It takes away security and wades into the unknown, but there’s my record and I’m very open about the stats.”

Nationally, he says, there are around 50 fishermen keen to sign up for the service, with around five in the lower North Island and nine on Stewart Island keen to join.

Public accessibility to fishing is also a big part of his mission, as he believes buying fish is too expensive for the average Kiwi these days.

With his system, he believes people will get better quality fish at more reasonable prices – below $28/kg.

Smith hopes someone will take the opportunity to come on board with their own courier service designed to transport fish, supporting more jobs for regional communities.

The two ‘pods’ are just getting started, as he has been scouting for funds for ‘pods’ all over New Zealand.

”I asked for 10 but got two. They wanted to see if we could walk before we could run. Ten will solve the problem of access to kaimoana in New Zealand.”

Just before Covid-19, Smith started Gravity Fishing Experience, a food and fishing tourism business based off Stewart Island.

This allowed him to work on his ”pod” project while using his passion to educate more people about sustainable fishing through fishing experiences.

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