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Govt tackles environmental impacts of fishing

Government tackles environmental impacts of fishing

The government has announced a new policy that aims to improve the environmental performance of New Zealand fisheries.

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope, opening the 2005 Conference of the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society, took the opportunity to launch the government's Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing.

"Managing fishing's footprint on non-target species, on marine habitats, and on the wider ecosystems in our oceans is to be as important as maintaining the target fish stocks themselves," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"To do this we must be able to set limits around environmental performance. We must be able to say what level of effect is acceptable and what is unacceptable.

“We have already taken important steps to minimise fishing’s impact on marine ecosystems. These include managing target fish stocks sustainably, closing areas to protect seabed communities, requiring seabird mitigation devices and techniques to be used in some fisheries, and imposing bycatch limits in others.

“But we need to do more. In fact, I want to see our environmental performance reach the same world-leading standards as our fisheries management has reached."

He says the new strategy promotes a co-ordinated and purposeful way of working out environmental limits, regularly reviewing them, and improving them if necessary.

"Different factors will contribute to setting these standards – biological, societal views, and provision for future generations' needs," said Mr Benson-Pope. "But it will not be enough simply to set standards. Fisheries managers must be able to demonstrate that a fishery is meeting them. This will require effective monitoring and reporting processes."

The process of managing fisheries to achieve environmental standards will occur primarily through the development of fisheries plans led by the Ministry of Fisheries in consultation with stakeholders. These plans will specify what is to be achieved with a specific fishery, including the application of research, regulations and compliance.

"The development of environmental standards will be prioritised, allowing the government to initially focus on species and habitats considered to be at higher risk," said Mr Benson-Pope.

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