Ministry Responds to Statements by ECO Spokesperson
11 June 2004
The Ministry of Fisheries is concerned about statements concerning orange roughy stocks made yesterday by an ECO spokesperson, says senior fisheries management advisor, Dr Jim Cornelius.
"The statement by Victoria University senior lecturer Ms Cath Wallace, on behalf of ECO, that the legal minimum target level for orange roughy is 30% of unfished levels, does not represent the legal and public policy framework that relates to fishing.
"There is no such legal minimum. Ms Wallace's view should not be confused with what the law states", said Dr Cornelius.
"The law states that orange roughy should be managed at or above a level that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). The law does not state what this level equates to relative to the unfished level for any fishstock. In essence, the biomass of fish associated with production of MSY fluctuates over time.
For orange roughy, scientists have estimated that the MSY-biomass should fluctuate around 30% of the unfished level. Thus, the 30% level is treated as a target, not a limit. MSY is the greatest yield that can be achieved over time for a fishstock having regard to relevant biological characteristics and environmental factors.
MSY is a long-term average concept. It is not something that can be achieved at a single point in time. The legislation clearly anticipates that stock levels will fluctuate over time. Where there is surplus abundance of fish above the level that can produce MSY then that can be made available to fishers. Where there is need to rebuild a fishstock to a level that can produce MSY then catch levels are reduced.
Regarding the statement that the International DeepSea Conference accepted that 'there is no way that the orange roughy fishing is sustainable,' no such scientific conclusions were drawn at the conference. The conference agreed that historical modelling efforts have been over-optimistic but these have since been adjusted to reflect the current status of the orange roughy stocks.
Based on the most recent stock assessment, the Northeast Chatham Rise fishery - the largest orange roughy fishery in the world - probably exceeds 40% of unfished levels and appears to have been increasing in size since the early 1990s.
Dr Robert Kearney, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Canberra, was asked to review a Ministry of Fisheries analysis of the management history of three depleted orange roughy fisheries. In his report, published in 2000, Dr Kearney said the performance of New Zealand fisheries scientists was recognised worldwide and orange roughy research - the world's first major deepwater fisheries research programme - was "at the cutting edge".
In the past, there have been planned fishing-down phases for orange roughy fisheries, but now catches are being reduced to bring them in line with long-term sustainability and, in some cases, to rebuild them to healthier levels.
Dr Cornelius noted that the Ministry of Fisheries has both a technical and public consultation process that considers information relevant to stock assessments for these fisheries as part of the ongoing fishery management process. Ms Wallace, an informed commentator on environmental issues in New Zealand, or any other interested party who has such information, is welcome to participate in the consultation process.
For further information, please contact:
Dr Jim Cornelius, Senior Fisheries Management Advisor, tel. 03 548 1069
Dr Pamela Mace, Scientist, tel. 04 494 8266