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Overfished West Coast hoki fishery collapses

Wednesday, September 26: The collapse of the West Coast hoki fishery revealed today by the fishing industry demonstrates why we need an independent inquiry into New Zealand’s failing fisheries management system, says Greenpeace.

Fishing companies today revealed that they were struggling to catch fish in the West Coast hoki fishery. As a result, they have agreed to temporarily give up 22% of their existing quota, and will stop fishing in spawning grounds.

Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says "rampant overfishing" in New Zealand’s most valuable fishery could only have helped drive the collapse.

"History tells us that left to their own devices, the fishing industry will overfish and collapse fisheries - just look at what happened with orange roughy," he says.

In May this year, Greenpeace released secret internal Ministry of Primary Industry reports that showed that the fishing industry was systematically taking far more fish from the hoki fishery than they were publicly disclosing. The fishing industry denied the evidence and pointed to the supposed health of the hoki fishery as evidence of their good management.

"The leaked MPI reports showed that fishing companies working in the hoki fishery were systematically dumping smaller fish, targeting spawning grounds, under-reporting the weight of cartons of fish, under-reporting the weight of whole fish caught for processing into fillets, mislabelling cartons of hoki as other kinds of fish, and much more. We’re talking about rampant overfishing," Norman says.

"If MPI had enforced the law back in 2012 and prosecuted these companies, the hoki fishery might not have collapsed. Instead, MPI has been captured by the industry, leading to this devastating result.

"The industry is blaming rising sea temperatures for the lack of fish. While that may well be a factor, it will have been made much worse by systematic overfishing.

"We urgently need an independent inquiry into the fisheries management system, and we need the Government to have the courage to confront the industry.

"This is also a significant black mark for the Marine Stewardship Council. Nine days ago they recertified the hoki fishery as ‘sustainable’ - and today we find out it has collapsed."


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