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Fishy Business at the Ministry

NZ fishing industry challenged to pull up its stocks

Consumers around the world will now have the power to choose fish from New Zealand fisheries that do less harm to the environment. The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand today launched the Best Fish Guide, the first independent guide to rank the ecological sustainability of New Zealand`s 62 commercial marine fisheries.

The top 12 ranking species include pilchard, blue moki, tarakihi and trevally, however, even these better fisheries still have some problems, Forest and Bird`s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said. The worst 12 include orange roughy - which ranks worst of all - as well as hoki and oreos, fish species that are also exported around the world. These are fisheries that need quota reductions and which need to improve their fishing techniques to do less environmental harm, he said. The NZ fishing industry has a real challenge ahead of it. We hope the fishing industry pulls up its stocks so we can lift these rankings next year, he said. He went on to say: Consumers increasingly demand that seafood is sourced from ecologically sustainable fisheries. But until now they have had no way of knowing which fish are sustainably caught in NZ.To help consumers make better choices, Forest and Bird has brought together a huge amount of information and ranked fisheries in three colour categories:

* Green - relatively well managed, with low habitat damage and/or by-catch
* Amber - concerns about the status of stocks, fishing methods, habitat damage, management, bycatch or lack of knowledge
* Red - fishery has a lot of problems because it is over-fished, poorly managed, has high by-catch, damages marine habitats, and/or there is a lack of knowledge.

Consumers may be surprised to find out that no NZ fishery ranked green. We are not able to show that any NZ fishery is well managed, with low habitat damage or by-catch and has good information on the status of stocks, Mr Hackwell said.Around half the fisheries ranked amber, meaning that there are concerns about these fisheries, or there is simply no information on which to make a robust assessment. The remainder ranked in the red. Around half of NZ`s fisheries are clearly not sustainable because they are over fished, poorly managed, have high by-catch, damage marine habitats and/or have poor information about the state of the fishery.

The findings of our assessment contradicts claims by the NZ Ministry of Fisheries and the NZ fishing industry that NZ fisheries are sustainable and well managed, Mr Hackwell said; then went on, Overseas consumers may be shocked to find out that NZ hoki and orange roughy are from fisheries that are close to collapsing, kill large numbers of marine mammals and seabirds, and bulldoze fragile deepwater coral habitats on seamounts!NB The Best Fish Guide is at: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/bestfishguide/index.asp The criteria used to rank the fisheries are:

* status and sustainability of catches;
* fishing method;
* habitat damage;
* biology and risk of over-fishing;
* management and research;
* management plans;
* stock assessment information; and
* protected or threatened species bycatch such as seabirds or marine mammals.

From the assessments of the 62 fisheries

16 are over-fished or there has been a substantial decline in stocks
50 cause habitat damage
23 kill significant numbers of seabirds
28 kill a significant number of marine mammals
56 catch too much non-target fish
60 cause adverse ecological effects

The best 12 fish are:
Pilchards, Anchovy, Sprats, Kina, Blue moki Blue mackerel, Grey Mullet, Trevally, Garfish, Yellow-eyed mullet, Kahawai, Blue cod.

The worst 12 fish are:
Orange roughy, (worst) Jack mackerels, Oreos, Turbot, Brill, NZ sole, Lemon sole, Flounders, Rig/lemonfish, Snapper, Spiny dogfish, hoki.Smoke from the Ministry

The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) was today accused of misleading the public by claiming they had good information with which to advise on the sustainability of 60-70 percent of New Zealand`s commercial fisheries. Forest and Bird`s Senior Researcher said that the claim had to be misleading when stocks from only ten of the 62 species have had full stock assessments in the last ten years.

No New Zealand fishery has a management plan. For over two thirds of the species in the Quota Management System, MFish does not know whether current catch limits are sustainable or not. Their 60-70% claim appears to have been plucked out of thin air. We challenge MFish to justify its assertion, he said. I`ve been to most of the stock assessments plenaries over the last twelve years so I know. He continued, Of those that have had full assessments, around half are below the maximum sustainable yield biomass and are therefore not sustainable or well managed. Some of these are among our biggest fisheries.This year, the Government increased the take of squid, citing it as an example of how the Quota Management System (QMS) enabled sensitive management of fish stocks. But last year MFish conceded that it is was impossible to estimate a sustainable yield for squid, he said. Every year, thousands of seabirds and hundreds of marine mammals are killed in New Zealand fisheries. Hundreds of square kilometres of seabed are being wrecked by trawl nets every year. Coral forests hundreds of years old are being wiped out. Yet MFish is willing to go on record as saying New Zealand`s fisheries are in good shape? ?It`s revealing that the Ministry of Fisheries` statement today ignored by-catch and habitat damage from fishing, he said.

4th July 2014