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Southern Blue Whiting fishery catch cut

Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has been cautious in balancing sustainability against economic gain in New Zealand's southern blue whiting fishery.

Mr Anderton today announced his decision to reduce southern blue whiting catches on the Campbell Rise for the coming season from 25,000 to 20,000 tonnes with effect from 1 April 2006.

The main fishery for southern blue whiting is on the Campbell Island Rise (SBW6I) between August and September each year, when they form spawning aggregations. Numbers of fish spawning there can vary markedly from year to year.

"Scientific advice suggests that southern blue whiting catches must come down if we want to keep the fishery sustainable," Mr Anderton said.

"Scientific data, although uncertain, has been indicating that the number of southern blue whiting is declining. The fishery is now at a point where I consider action needs to be taken to move the catch toward levels that will be sustainable in the long term.

"My current reduction might not move the stock towards its desired level directly, but it will slow the rate of decline and, should the assessment prove correct, it will represent the start of a rebuild strategy.

"I appreciate that right now, the industry is having some tough times economically. But if the science turns out to be correct and we don't reduce catches this year, we will be setting companies up for a hard fall down the track. I am not prepared to take that risk," Mr Anderton said.

The government is currently working with the industry to develop a Fisheries Plan for the southern blue whiting fishery. Key aspects of the plan will involve deciding how to balance the costs of scientific research against the economic benefits of the fishery and developing a long-term plan to ensure ongoing sustainable catch levels.

The last full survey of the southern blue whiting fishery was done in 2004. A new acoustic survey of the fish stock will be done this year.

ENDS

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