Fisheries sustainability decisions for 2000-2001
Thursday, 7 September 2000
Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson today announced fisheries management changes for the new fishing year beginning on 1 October 2000.
"These decisions follow consideration of the most recent scientific assessments and consultation with all stakeholders, including Maori, recreational and commercial fishers and environmental groups," Mr Hodgson said. "The aim is to ensure as far as possible the sustainability of fisheries and the marine environment."
The decisions include some large catch limit reductions to address urgent sustainability concerns in three orange roughy fisheries.
Other decisions include:
- Reduced catch levels for deepwater oreo and ling species;
- Reduction of the commercial catch of Stewart Island paua;
- Setting a commercial catch limit for pilchards off the upper eastern North Island;
- Increasing catch levels for rig and elephantfish on the east coast of the South Island;
- Setting a threshold for Hector's dolphin mortalities in commercial set nets off the coast from North Canterbury to Oamaru;
- Reduction of recreational daily bag limits for blue cod in the upper South Island.
Mr Hodgson said the problems he had addressed in the orange roughy fisheries showed how the successful operation of the Quota Management System depended on decisionmakers taking a precautionary approach.
"New Zealand's Quota Management System is a world leader and there is no doubt most of our fish stocks are being managed in a more sustainable manner because of it. The three orange roughy stocks have been a sad exception and their decline is a wake-up call for decision-makers past and present."
Commercial catch limits in three orange roughy fisheries have been significantly reduced to address urgent sustainability concerns.
The areas concerned are the East Cape fishery (stock area ORH2A North), the Mid-East Coast fishery (areas ORH2A South, ORH2B, and ORH3A) and the Challenger Plateau fishery (ORH7A), which is off the west coast of central New Zealand. In the 1998-1999 fishing year, these fisheries produced just under 34% of the total orange roughy catch.
Catch limits for the East Cape and Mid-East Coast fisheries have been cut significantly, while the Challenger Plateau fishery will effectively be closed.
"These fisheries are in a very depleted state," Mr Hodgson said. "I have taken into account the economic impacts of reducing catch limits, but a significant reduction in catch is necessary to stop further decline and give the fisheries a chance to recover."
"I am particularly concerned about the Challenger Plateau fishery, which is only 3% of its original size. Fish stocks should be maintained at 30% or more of their original biomass and are considered to be at risk when they fall below 20%.
"I have therefore cut the commercial quota for the Challenger Plateau from 1425 tonnes to 1 tonne, which effectively closes the fishery. I consider that the state of the fishery is such that continued fishing is unacceptable."
This is the first time a deep water fishery has been closed due to resource depletion.
The commercial catch limit for the East Cape fishery, which is 14% of its original size, has been reduced from 2500 to 200 tonnes.
For the Mid-East Coast fishery, which is 10% of its original size, the commercial catch limit will be cut from 2100 to 1500 tonnes for the upcoming fishing year and further cut to 800 tonnes the following year.
"Orange roughy stocks are regarded internationally as very difficult to manage," Mr Hodgson said. "We are better at catching the fish than measuring its abundance. As our research ability has improved, it has become progressively obvious that previous estimates have been optimistic or very optimistic.
"The primary underlying reason for this stock collapse is therefore inadequate research investment and techniques. But there are other contributing factors. The industry has often advanced the view that stocks should be 'fished down' rapidly rather than cautiously. With the benefit of hindsight, this so-called 'hard landing' approach appears to have been a mistake.
"Regrettably, total Crown-purchased fisheries research was reduced from $17 million to $14 million over the past five years. The previous Minister of Fisheries declined to reduce catch limits, pending industry-purchased research results that did not arrive. He also tied up the Ministry of Fisheries with policy development on devolution of services, to the point where last year there was virtually no stock assessment done on fish stocks that were clearly in desperate need of it, including orange roughy."
Mr Hodgson has made publicly available a comprehensive analysis of research, stakeholder opinions, and Ministerial decisions for the affected orange roughy stocks over the past five years. Dr Bob Kearney, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Canberra University, is reviewing it and his advice will be made public when it is received, in about one month.
"The challenge for the fishing industry is to accept these cuts and move on," Mr Hodgson said. "I look forward to their reaction and I look forward to working closely with them to see what we can learn from this experience."
Steward Island paua
To halt the decline in Stewart Island paua stocks, the commercial catch limit is being reduced by 32 tonnes.
This reduction is another step in a joint management response with commercial fishers to the stock decline. Last year the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) in fishing area PAU5B was reduced by 5 tonnes and commercial fishers 'shelved' 25 tonnes of quota. This year, in addition to the TACC cut, fishers have agreed to continue to shelve about 22 tonnes of quota.
"I have continued a phased reduction in the Stewart Island paua catch to ensure the future sustainability of the fishery," Mr Hodgson said. "The cut should halt the decline in the stock and increase the potential for it to rebuild.
"This reduction will have significant economic implications for some quota holders, local paua divers and the Stewart Island community. But I commend the New Zealand Paua Management Company and paua fishers for their constructive initiatives to help ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery."
Mr Hodgson said he intended to review the management of Stewart Island paua again in 2002, when new scientific information on the state of the stock would become available.
Oreo and ling
Commercial catch limits for the deepwater species oreo and ling have been reduced for the upcoming fishing year in the interests of sustainability.
The Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for oreo on the western half of the Chatham Rise (fishing area OEO3A) has been reduced from 5900 to 4400 tonnes.
"Within the new TACC I have asked the industry to implement voluntary catch limits restricting the smooth oreo catch to 1400 tonnes and the black oreo catch to 3000 tonnes," Mr Hodgson said. "The sustainable management of smooth and black oreos in this fishery depends on the co-operation of quota holders, and to date I have been very encouraged with the responsible approach they have taken."
The TACCs for ling on the east coast of the South Island (area LIN3) and on the Chatham Rise (LIN4) have been reduced from 2810 to 2060 tonnes and 5720 to 4200 tonnes respectively.
"These reductions are an initial step towards ensuring that commercial catches in LIN3&4 are sustainable and the fisheries are managed towards their target level," Mr Hodgson said.
"I intend to review the management of black oreo and ling areas 3 and 4 again next year following an update of the scientific assessment."
A commercial catch limit has been set for the first time for the pilchard fishery in the upper eastern North Island.
"The catch has been steadily increasing in this developing fishery over the last few years and I want to ensure that development continues in a controlled manner," Mr Hodgson said.
The initial commercial catch limit in Area 1, which extends from North Cape to Cape Runaway, will be 2000 tonnes.
Mr Hodgson said the introduction of a commercial catch limit might constrain the small number of participants in the commercial fishery, but further research would help determine the size of the resource and the relative importance of pilchards to other species in the aquatic environment.
Rig and elephant fish
Commercial catch limits for rig (spotted shark) and elephantfish have been increased for the upcoming fishing year.
The Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for rig on the east and south coast of the South Island (fishing area SPO3) has been increased from 454 to 600 tonnes. The TACC for elephantfish on the east coast of the South Island and Chatham Rise (area ELE3) has been increased from 500 to 825 tonnes.
Both of these increases have been made within the Ministry of Fisheries' adaptive management programme. The programme allows the fishing industry to develop a fishery management proposal combining an increased catch and improved scientific assessment. The onus is on the industry to provide the data and analysis required to monitor and detect changes in stock abundance. If the industry does not fulfil its commitments, it faces a reversal of the TACC increase.
Protection for Hector's dolphins is a condition on the increased catch limits.
"Ensuring the rig and elephantfish fisheries do no significant harm to Hector's dolphins is a high priority," Mr Hodgson said. "I have set a threshold level of seven Hector's dolphin mortalities for all commercial set netting in these fisheries for the 2000-2001 fishing year. This threshold will be reviewed before the start of the 2001-02 fishing year. Modelling suggests the threshold should then be lowered to four mortalities a year, but I await peer review of the science."
The industry is adopting a range of voluntary measures to reduce dolphin bycatch.
Local fishers' concerns have prompted a reduction in the daily recreational bag limit for blue cod in two areas of the upper South Island.
The first area comprises Tasman Bay, Golden Bay and the eastern outer coastline of the Marlborough Sounds down to Clarence Point. The bag limit in this area will be reduced from 20 to 10. The limit will not apply in the Marlborough Sounds, where it will remain at 6 blue cod a day, nor will it apply on the West Coast.
In the second area, which extends south from Clarence Point to the Waimakariri River mouth, the bag limit will be reduced from 30 to 10.
"I have taken this action following concerns raised by local anglers over increasing fishing pressure on blue cod stocks," Mr Hodgson said. "Consultation showed considerable support from recreational fishers and tangata whenua for the cut. The new bag limits should achieve a significant reduction in the blue cod catch. They also introduce consistency between the adjoining areas.
"These changes are a good example of the value added by consultation and community involvement in the management of fisheries."
The reduced bag limits are due to come into effect in November 2000.