Response to fish buying guide
13 November 2007
The “Best Fish Guide” released today paints an inaccurate and simplistic view of the management of New Zealand’s fisheries, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said.
Jim Anderton said that while it was good to see issues of environmental performance in our fisheries being debated, he did not think this guide was helpful for consumers.
“Most New Zealand fisheries are sustainable and in the case of the few that are below sustainable levels the Government is taking action to address falling stocks. Consumers can have confidence when they are buying New Zealand seafood.
“The Government welcomes independent assessment of our fisheries management. We are actively pursuing environmental certification of our fisheries and have allocated $4.6 million towards achieving this. However, these assessments must be made using clear criteria and transparent methodology. Unfortunately, the Best Fish Guide is not transparently assessed, the criteria used are not specified and it is therefore of limited use.
“New Zealand’s quota management system keeps tight controls on the levels of catch of our fish stocks and recent increases in ‘deemed value’ payments are a strong incentive for fishers to stay within sustainable limits. Catch levels are closely monitored so that any sustainability problems are quickly identified and necessary action is taken.
“The Government is focused strongly on the sustainability of our fishstocks. If sustainability is threatened then, as I have shown with the recent reductions in hoki and orange roughy quotas, I will act decisively.”
Jim Anderton said the government had spent around $200 million on scientific research over the last ten years and would spend almost $26 million this year alone.
“This research feeds into an annual stock assessment process, whereby every fish stock is assessed by an assessment working group, including independent scientists and representatives from environmental organisations, to ensure that catch levels are sustainable.
“There is a finite amount of money available and a limited pool of scientists able to carry out research. This means that the research we undertake must be targeted to where it is most needed and will provide the most benefit.
“As much as we would like to, we can’t research every fishery every year and we can’t count every fish in the sea.”
Jim Anderton said that even with all this research, we don’t have perfect information on our fish stocks.
“I am particularly concerned at the level of information on our orange roughy stocks and their sustainability. This is a very difficult fishery to research and manage and a lot of work is going into improving the information we have. I have recently made difficult decisions on reduced catch limits and I will continue to keep a close eye on the fishery.
“The management of our fisheries is not perfect. We do understand that there are concerns around the impact of fishing on other species and the environment.
“The Government shares these concerns and is working hard to address them with a number of major projects due for consultation and completion over the coming months:
- Threat management plan for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins to address and mitigate threats to Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins both from fishing and no-fishing related threats;
- Established a fund to help New Zealand fisheries become certified environmentally sustainable by a recognised certification agency.
- Closure of 30% of the New Zealand EEZ to bottom fishing in partnership with the fishing industry;
- Benthic Impacts Strategy to better manage the impacts of bottom trawling on the seabed and seafloor eco-systems;
- National Plan of Action on Seabirds and Seabird Standard to develop a more robust approach to managing the impacts of fishing on seabirds;
- Moving to impose mandatory seabird bycatch prevention measures after a small long line vessel caught 12 endangered Chatham albatrosses; and
- National Plan of Action for sharks to provide a framework for managing sharks to ensure their sustainability.”