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Forest and Bird claims - "Absurd"

8 November 2005

Forest and Bird claims - "Absurd," says Seafood Industry

"Absurd," was the response from NZ's Seafood Industry Council CEO, Owen Symmans today, describing the latest version of the Forest and Bird 'Best Fish Guide'. "New Zealand has a world-leading fisheries management system that sustains our fisheries and our billion-dollar industry, adopting precautionary management practices to ensure long term sustainability. To suggest that Forest and Bird are in a better position than the Ministry of Fisheries to assess New Zealand's fish stocks is laughable," said Mr Symmans.

The Ministry of Fisheries assesses fish stocks annually to ensure continued sustainability of these. This entails very thorough scientific research and analysis and, as a result of this, the Minister can be provided with robust advice on how to adjust the total allowable commercial catch levels (TACCs).

The industry, NGO's, recreational and customary fishers are involved in the assessment process and in statutory consultations on adjustments to total allowable catches (TACs) and total allowable commercial catches (TACCs). In a number of cases, hoki being a recent example, the industry has requested that the Minister of Fisheries adjust some TACCs to ensure ongoing sustainability is safeguarded, often below the recommended amount. In addition, there are many cases where industry has voluntarily reduced catch levels well below TACCs.

"The industry supports credible certification schemes, such as the internationally acclaimed Marine Stewardship Certification scheme which New Zealand's hoki fishery is accredited with. In contrast to that scheme and a number of independent listing schemes run overseas, the Forest and Bird 'guide' is non-transparent and poorly implemented." Mr Symmans said.

"The recommendations Forest and Bird make in this 'guide' are based on unclear criteria. Other certification schemes are designed to put pressure on consumers to maintain sustainability and the industry supports this practice, but this Forest and Bird guide is produced by activists using very selective information and limited research. It is very unclear how they are backing up these claims." "Yes, one or two fish stocks have been closed, but there are in excess of 550 fish stocks representing more than 90 species managed by the QMS and many previously over-fished stocks such as snapper, scallop and rock lobster have shown increases.

Many of the cuts in TAC and TACC have been industry driven to ensure long term sustainability." "When the Quota Management System was introduced in the mid 1980s many fishing nations thought it was experimental, but now it is recognised internationally as a highly successful fisheries management regime," he says. "The system involves shared responsibility between the industry and government to ensure sustainability of the ocean environment and our fisheries into the future as well as providing a level of surety for the multi billion dollar investment that underpins this vital industry." Mr Symmans says the industry continually works with Government to ensure ongoing improvement in sustainable management of fisheries.

He said the industry recognises the benefits of a sensible regulatory framework to manage quotas and environmental impacts. "Modern fishing techniques and technology are part of the necessary mix that the industry uses along with comprehensive management and control regimes to ensure that fishing and its effects are environmentally sustainable."

As with our lands and forests, sustainable use of our oceans means respecting the environment and recognising our impacts when and where they occur; but it also means recognising fishing and aquaculture as legitimate activities, something Forest and Bird 'barely acknowledge.'

"Already, companies are working to mitigate their impacts on marine mammals. Codes of practice and voluntary measures to reduce levels of marine mammal interaction with fishing boats, crew training, significant investment in gear design to stop sea lions getting caught in trawl nets; deployment of acoustic devices to warn dolphins away from set nets; and voluntary area closures are just some of the initiatives underway."

"All this has been done voluntarily, at companies' own expense; something that demonstrates our industry's commitment to find solutions and sustainability of not only our fish stocks, but other marine life." "Effective and principled management of the environmental impacts of fishing is critical to our industry," he said. "Consumers around the world are placing increasing importance on knowing that the seafood they purchase comes from sustainable and environmentally aware fisheries, and consumers can be assured that New Zealand fish stocks are sustainably managed."

"It is hugely disappointing, against this background, that a national body such as Forest and Bird can contrive to undermine a nationally important and responsible industry which is recognised internationally for its good practice and proactive approach to fisheries management. "

"The New Zealand seafood industry is pleased to work constructively with environmental groups and other stakeholders in the marine environment. It is sad indeed that New Zealand's largest environmental organization cannot work with other groups, but instead tries to discredit and undermine them for their own publicity stunts, " said Mr Symmans.

ENDS


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