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Government Welcomes Toothfish Catch Scheme

12 May 2000


The Government has backed an international catch documentation scheme designed to protect toothfish from illegal fishing. New Zealand rules implementing the scheme came into force today.

The scheme regulates trade in toothfish by tracking the movement of toothfish shipments in international trade through a certificate of origin system.

Acting Foreign Minister Jim Sutton said the scheme’s formal introduction, through new Fisheries Regulations and Customs Prohibition Orders, offered critical protection for the valuable sub-Antarctic species.

Mr Sutton said it would make life tougher for illegal and unregulated fishers.

‘This scheme will put the pressure on illegal fishers by making it significantly harder for those countries involved in illegal fishing to sell their catch in major toothfish markets.’

Parties to CCAMLR (The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) agreed last November to set up the Catch Document Scheme as a world-wide monitoring scheme.

Each catch or shipment of toothfish must be accompanied by a valid catch document, issued in line with CCAMLR rules and ensuring that CCAMLR conservation measures are obeyed.

The major markets for toothfish, including the United States and Japan, are members of CCAMLR. European countries are represented at CCAMLR through the European Commission.

New Zealand vessels participating in exploratory toothfish fishing in the Ross Sea area must abide by international environmental and conservation measures before they can be given a confirmation number which validated their catch and enabled it to be sold to other CCAMLR parties.

Those conservation measures include a requirement that any vessel catching toothfish must carry out research hauls to contribute to data collection on stock sustainability, and also protect seabirds and other living marine resources.

Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson said that as well as setting stringent conservational measures, CCAMLR oversaw all research and set the tonnage that could be taken from each area by CCAMLR parties.

‘This is a very positive regime with clear conservation and sustainable fishing goals, and its measures could serve as a precedent for research into other fish stocks around the world.’

Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle welcomed the move to limit illegal fishing and said the New Zealand Customs Service would play its part in policing shipments. She said the Government would also look at the wider issues of whether to continue low-level fishing or seek a possible moratorium.

‘One of the subspecies, Patagonian toothfish, which lives in more accessible waters than Antarctic toothfish, has been heavily fished since the early 1990s, and some sources cite a risk of commercial extinction within as little as two years,’ she said.

‘We will be examining whether we should put more energy into research on the Antarctic toothfish sub species with the aim of developing a sustainable fishery for New Zealand companies, or whether New Zealand wants a moratorium on the fishing of toothfish in the Ross Sea area.’

Further information: Cathie Bell press secretary 025 998467

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