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Ross Sea toothfish

Tuesday, 18 July 2000

Ross Sea toothfish

The Government will seek international agreement for up to three New Zealand vessels to catch toothfish in Antarctica's Ross Sea this summer, Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson announced today.

But New Zealand will advocate within a year for a global moratorium on fishing for toothfish if protection of the species under the licensed fishing programme proves inadequate.

The moratorium proposal would include a possible trade ban on toothfish under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), or its designation as a protected species under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The proposal for another season of exploratory fishing for toothfish will be put to a meeting of CCAMLR parties on 23 October-3 November this year. Exploratory fishing for toothfish is licensed in a manner consistent with CCAMLR's research and conservation conditions.

"Toothfish stocks are threatened by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing," the Ministers said. "Given the difficulties of enforcing a moratorium, we believe that international cooperation in a tightly managed exploratory commercial fishery still offers the best hope for controlling the exploitation of toothfish."

Exploratory fishing under CCAMLR is regulated under specific conservation measures, requiring the collection of data from fishing operations by scientific observers, a spread of effort throughout the fished area and conservative catch limits based on the precautionary principle. At this year's CCAMLR meeting New Zealand will seek increased emphasis on research as a condition of exploratory fishing.

To date only New Zealand vessels have fished for toothfish in the Ross Sea, with three vessels operating in the fishery for the first time last summer.

"Another fishing season will give the fishing industry a second chance to show it can operate responsibly in this valuable fishery," the Ministers said. "If, however, there is evidence that toothfish stocks are not being adequately protected, a moratorium and trade ban, or protected status, will be the only responsible course."

A number of New Zealand fishing companies have already lodged expressions of interest in fishing for toothfish in the Ross Sea in the 2000-20001 season. If CCAMLR endorses up to three New Zealand vessels fishing for the season, permits will be allocated through a licensing process managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Fisheries.


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