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Govt. responds to tuna fishing industry concerns

06 December, 2004 Media Statement

Government responds to tuna fishing industry concerns with $9million package

The Government is to give $9million worth of quota to tuna fishers in response to problems they faced due to a mismatch between their quota entitlement for tuna and five associated by-catch species.

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope says an unforeseen "mismatch" in catch history years for the allocation of tuna and other species caught as by-catch, would have placed the industry under extreme pressure.

Tuna fishing has expanded significantly in the last decade, and the catch history years used for allocating quota were set over the years 1999 to 2002. However, the Fisheries Act set the catch history years for the by-catch species almost a decade earlier.

There are around 500 tuna fishing operators in New Zealand and the industry is worth around $30million annually. Their quota in tuna species is estimated to be worth around $120million.

Mr Benson-Pope says Cabinet this morning agreed that an estimated $9million in Crown-owned quota, in the five fish species commonly caught as by-catch in the tuna fishery, will be preferentially offered at no cost to fishers who caught the species during the tuna catch history years. This means the by-catch species will more closely align with the catch history years for tuna. The five by-catch species are blue shark, mako shark, moonfish, porbeagle shark and Ray's bream.

Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE), the yearly catching right generated from quota, will be allocated immediately. Quota shares will be allocated in the New Year.

"We had to take action because of the significant implications of the mismatch on the tuna industry, especially small scale fishers who may have been unable to compete for by-catch quota in open tender," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"This is a decision we have made out of fairness to fishers who were encouraged to enter and develop the tuna industry in the last decade. It recognises the potential hardship they faced from not having quota for by-catch matched to their tuna quota allocation."

Mr Benson-Pope says today's decision was a response to a particular issue faced by this fishery and was unlikely to be repeated.

ENDS

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