Outcome 1: The health of the Aquatic Environment is protected
What are we seeking to achieve?
Meeting the Fisheries Act 1996 obligations to ensure sustainability (including maintaining stock levels and managing the adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment), promoting sustainable fishing in international fisheries, and working with other agencies to address impacts on the environment and fisheries resources not caused by fishing.
How can we measure our success?
The Ministry measures success in this outcome through:
- frameworks and incentives to improve environmental performance of fisheries
- standards for environmental performance of fishing
- environmental rules being met
- reducing impacts not caused by fishing.
The percentage of stocks in the quota management system at or above the specified sustainable target level is increasing.
There is currently sufficient information to characterise stock status relative to MSY-compatible targets for 117 of the 628 stocks in the QMS. This represents a net increase of 16 stocks (15.8 percent) over the 101 stocks of known status a year ago. Stocks of known status now account for 73 percent of the total landings by weight and value – up from 66 percent last year – and represent most of the main commercial species.
Of the 117 stocks or sub-stocks with known status relative to target reference points, 79 (68 percent) are near or above target levels. The 38 stocks that are known to be below their respective targets include two highly migratory species (over which New Zealand has limited influence), several orange roughy stocks, black cardinalfish, gemfish, Foveaux Strait oysters (due at least in part to disease), two rock lobster stocks, Tasman Bay and Golden Bay scallops, three paua stocks, all bluenose stocks, west coast North Island snapper, several other smaller inshore stocks, and longfin eels (for further details see the Status of Stocks page on www.fish.govt.nz ). However, it should be noted that just because a stock is below its MSY-compatible target, it does not mean that the stock is being fished unsustainably. Fish stocks can and have been fished sustainably for long periods of time in many parts of the world while at levels well below MSY-compatible levels.
Fishing-related mortality of protected species – including sea lions, fur seals, seabirds, and dolphins – is declining or below agreed limits.
A fishing-related mortality limit is in place for sea lions in the southern squid fishery around the Auckland Islands (SQU6T). Once this limit is reached the fishery is closed. In addition to the sea lion limit, each fishing vessel is fitted with an escape hatch to allow any sea lions that inadvertently enter the trawl net to escape.
Every year at least 30 percent of the fishing effort in the SQU6T is observed by Ministry Observers. Fishery officers also inspect most of the vessels to make sure the fishing gear has the escape hatch fitted correctly.
The Seabird National Plan of Action is being discussed with stakeholders. Draft proposals will be issued in the first half of the 2009/10 year.
Management measures for Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins were instituted in 2008/09, but it is too early to tell what effect these might have.
A representative range of New Zealand’s marine habitats and ecosystems is protected from impacts of fishing by 2020.
In 2007, the fishing industry and government worked together to close 17 areas to bottom trawling, giving protection to 1.2 million square kilometres of sea floor – around one-third of our EEZ. These protections cover most indicators of the current Marine Environment Classification classes and protect:
- 28 percent of known underwater topographical features (UTFs)
- 52 percent of known seamounts
- 88 percent of known hydrothermal vents.
New Zealand has also banned bottom trawling of any unfished areas and closed 112 square kilometres of previously fished high seas areas.
In the inshore, the Ministry is undertaking a “gap analysis” of current protection against the approved protection standard. This should be completed by December 2009. The Ministry, with the Department of Conservation, is actively supporting the West Coast and Sub-Antarctic Marine Planning Forum process.
All fisheries plans describe how relevant environmental standards will be met and include monitoring programmes to measure achievement.
There are no completed environmental standards to date. The plans include environmental objectives in the absence of environmental standards.
Conservation and management measures are adopted within five years (by 2013) by all Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in which New Zealand is an active participant.
New Zealand is an active participant in the following RFMOs and is working co-operatively with other member nations on the formal establishment of the South Pacific RFMO.
Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR):
A new interim measure was adopted in October 2008 for bottom fishing activities that encounter vulnerable marine ecosystems. Other measures adopted included:
- requirements to notify any transhipments in the CCAMLR area
- obligations on port states to inspect any vessel carrying toothfish
- Improvements to the CCAMLR catch documentation scheme.
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT):
Measures were adopted in October 2008 on:
- a vessel monitoring system
- a catch documentation scheme
- transhipments on the High Seas
- mitigating bycatch of ecologically related species such as seabirds, turtles, and sharks.
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC):
A range of measures were adopted by WCPFC in December 2008 on:
- bigeye and yellowfin tuna, South Pacific swordfish, sharks, and turtles
- Cooperating Non-Members
- banning the use of driftnets.
Are we making progress?
Progress is being made as the measures noted above will all contribute to our ability to protect the aquatic environment. This is evidenced with New Zealand being one of only two marine areas to receive the “green” rating in a recent international fisheries research paper “Rebuilding Global Fisheries”.