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Minister acts to rebuild Hoki stocks for future

Minister acts to rebuild Hoki stocks for future

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope has announced strong measures aimed at rebuilding New Zealand’s valuable deepwater Hoki fishery.

From 1 October the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) limit for the 2004-05 fishing season will be cut by almost 80,000 tonnes, to 100,000 tonnes. Within the TACC, allowances will be split between the western and eastern fishing grounds – 40,000 tonnes and 60,000 tonnes respectively.

Mr Benson-Pope says 2004 stock estimates showed that it is imperative urgent action be taken to reduce the catch. Estimates for Hoki on the western spawning grounds have the species at only 13-22 percent of its original, unfished size.

Hoki stocks on the eastern side of the South island are judged to be at sustainable levels, estimated at or above 40 per cent of the original Hoki biomass. However, scientists believe that mixing of juvenile Hoki from both eastern and western populations occurs on the Chatham Rise, so increased harvest from the Chatham Rise fishing grounds may have affected recruitment of juveniles to the pressured western stocks.

“It is vital to give the stock every chance of rebuilding as fast as possible,” said Mr Benson-Pope. “The gradual reductions in catch allowances made in recent years have not arrested its decline, and therefore, a more significant cut is needed now.

“My long term aim is to ensure that the full benefit of the Hoki fishery is available to current and future generations.”

Mr Benson-Pope acknowledged that the cut to the TACC will have economic and social impacts on fishers, processors, and supporting sectors.

“The TACC I have set was the lowest of the three options put forward to me. However, it does match the reality the industry faces. This current year it seems likely that fishers will take between 110,000 to 120,000 tonnes – substantially below the 180,000 tonne TACC allowed. The consequences of the decline in Hoki abundance are already being experienced.

“Industry has been aware of the depleted state of the stock and the pending reduction in TACC for some time, and many companies have already taken steps to reduce capacity.”

The industry, led by the Hoki Management Company, has also imposed other voluntary measures to address Hoki sustainability concerns within an agreed industry code of practice.

Mr Benson-Pope acknowledged the work the Hoki Fishery Management Company had done to mitigate juvenile mortality on the Chatham Rise, and also its efforts to reduce harvest pressure on certain spawning stocks.

“Having made the decision to reduce the TACC I now look forward to the Hoki industry complying with its own code of practice to assist in the rebuild of the stock, so that the TACC can be increased in the future and regulatory action can be avoided,” he said.

“I will monitor the success of fishers’ compliance with the industry Code of Practice and reserve the option to use regulatory measures if voluntary industry compliance is not achieved.”

Other sustainability measures for the 1 October fishing year to be gazetted today, include fishstocks of Ling (LIN 5&6), Rig (SPO2), Hake (HAK4), Kina (SUR5), Orange Roughy (ORH 2A Sth, 2B, 3A), School Shark (SCH2), and Sea Perch (SPE4).

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