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Fish Stock Status Update

Fish Stock Status Update

The Ministry for Primary Industries is reporting that by far the majority of New Zealand’s fisheries are performing well – 83.2 percent of fish stocks of known status are healthy.

The Status of New Zealand Fisheries 2012 report has just been released.

James Stevenson-Wallace, the Director of Fisheries Management, says New Zealand continues to be world-leading in the sustainable management of fishing, and the Quota Management System gives fisheries managers the ability to address problems where they occur.

The summary report shows fisheries management actions have created a noticeable improvement during the past year for the minority of stocks where there has been concern about overfishing.

“The overall trend is now showing steady improvement in these fisheries. It has gone from one in four to less than one in five over three years.”

At this point, only 0.5 percent of New Zealand’s fish stocks (by tonnage of landings) fall below the so-called hard limit where fisheries closures may be needed. These have now either been closed or have had significant reductions in allowable catches imposed.

Healthy stocks make up 96.6 percent of the landings where the status is known.

MPI is puzzled by some of the reporting that has occurred over the past year, says Pamela Mace, the Principal Adviser for Fisheries Science. “Some commentators do not take the trouble to understand and report what is really going on. We recognise this is a highly technical area and we are happy to clarify.

“For example, simply because a stock is below the management target does not mean it is ‘overfished’ or ‘in danger’, as has been repeatedly reported by the media and some environmental organisations. The commentators overlook that New Zealand’s fisheries get consistently high ratings in independent international studies.”

Some highlights for this year are:
• Hoki has now fully rebuilt;
• Chatham Rise orange roughy has a much-improved outlook;
• Campbell Island southern blue whiting is at a historic high;
• Numbers of several South Island stocks of gurnard, elephantfish and John dory have increased significantly.

New total allowable catch reductions or voluntary catch limits have been initiated this year to rebuild five stocks of bluenose and one stock each of rock lobster and paua.

New Zealand has also, as a member of the Commission for Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, continued to implement a management plan to rebuild SBT, which occurs seasonally in our waters.

Dr Mace says MPI acknowledges that there are still stocks of unknown status and that more research is required to gain the necessary benchmarking information.

To see the full report, link to


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