A fisherman in New Zealand was told he could only fillet blue cod on his boat if his frying pan was on. Frank McWatt caught four blue cod at Beatrix Bay, in the Marlborough Sounds, during the Christmas holidays. McWatt, his wife Jo, their daughter and two grandchildren tucked into the fillets for dinner. Jo McWatt said the family were full and put the leftover fillets in the fridge for the next day. But their boat Savvy 2 was boarded by a Ministry for Primary Industries officer who asked to see inside the boat. The compliance officer said McWatt was not allowed to have blue cod fillets in the fridge while at sea. McWatt, of Christchurch, was told he had to have the frying pan on before he started filleting his catch, he said. "You are not allowed to fillet a fish then pause before you put it in the pan." McWatt said he initially thought the "frying pan rule" was a joke.
"I wasn't happy about it. My wife made me hold my tongue.
The compliance officer said she would let us off because it was Christmas."
McWatt would have faced a $250 fine for the breach.
"If it had gone to court, I would have defended the case.
It's bloody ridiculous. I was dumbfounded."
Under MPI rules if you keep blue cod on your boat it must be in a "whole and measurable state", unless it was for immediate consumption.
The regulations stopped anyone having filleted blue cod in the Marlborough Sounds because fisheries officers were unable to tell from the fillets if the fish was of a legal size.
McWatt said he understood it was wrong to have the fillet in the fridge but he had every intention of eating it.
"We fish just enough for a good feed."
McWatt said in future he might have to make it clearer that he was going to eat the fish immediately.
"I would put out cutlery and plates but they would fall off the table," he said.
The rule was not conducive to family meals, he said.
"If I'm hungry at 6pm I'll have to get the wife to put the stove and the pan on. Then I'll have to fillet the fish and cook it. We have to go through the whole thing again for another member of the family. 'Sorry wife, I can't sit with you at dinner, I'm filleting my fish'." However, Ministry of Primary Industries district compliance manager Ian Bright said it was a throwaway remark and there was no such thing as the "frying pan rule".
"The officer was bringing to his attention what they considered immediate consumption. It was an analogy. It was a flippant comment taken out of context."
To have blue cod in either a whole or gutted state helped fisheries officers ensure all fish caught met the minimum size limit of 33 centimetres which was important for the long term viability of the fishery, Bright said.
"The new rules and regulations regarding the filleting of blue cod in Challenger (East) are designed to protect this important fishery.
It is important for all individuals to be aware that the new regulations are there to ensure that it becomes a stable and sustainable fishery for all.
"All the work that MPI does is focused towards this goal and ensuring that the rules are adhered to is an important part of the overall management plan."
Rural fire officer and recreational fisherman Ian Montgomery, of Okiwi Bay, said it was "plain dangerous" to put a frying pan on then leave it to fillet a fish.
"We constantly say the message 'look while you are cooking'. It's asking for trouble. If you put the frying pan on and left it, the boat could go on fire."
The frying pan remark was ridiculous, Montgomery said.
"Immediate consumption to me is you are going to eat the fish for your next meal.
He could have been having sashimi and leaving it to chill in the fridge."
It would have been a different matter if the leftover fillets were frozen and packaged to be taken home, Montgomery said.
He believed a fillet should be set in the fridge before it was cooked.
"You cover them with glad wrap, and set it in the fridge, roll them in flour if you are going to batter them, then cook them. It's just practical cooking."
Fishermen should keep the skeletons so the fish could be measured, Montgomery added.