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All is not well below the waves

25 May 2006
All is not well below the waves

Aotearoa Fisheries Limited General Manager Tom McClurg should eat his words after claiming today that there was no need anymore to worry about fish stocks, the Green Party says.

"It is an oddly naïve statement given Mr McClurg's position within New Zealand's fishing industry," Greens Fisheries Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

Mr McClurg told National Radio this afternoon that "sustainability is really pretty much a dead issue in New Zealand now". He went on to say: "We have a very successful framework for preventing the over exploitation of fish stocks."

"It is ridiculous that someone within the fishing industry can say such a thing. It is a well-known fact that little is known about the stocks of many of the species fished in New Zealand waters," Mrs Turei says.

"In many cases the setting of catch limits under the Quota Management System has been by taking a best guess and keeping our fingers crossed that the species won't be wiped out.

"Just look at what happened with the Orange Roughy fishery, a fish sold by Sealord - one of AFL's companies. Little was known about the species or stocks, but fishing companies still went ahead - total catches peaked in 1989 at 54,000 tonnes. The levels of harvesting were way above the breeding rate of the fish, they do not breed till they are about 30 years of age and live to the age of about 150. Now only 15,921 tonnes are allowed to be taken, but the Fisheries Ministry itself admits that there are still big holes in its knowledge of the remaining stocks.

"Not only is the species itself being killed, the bottom trawling method used to harvest this fish can cause immense damage to ancient corals and delicate ecosystems. What's sustainable about that?

"Stronger restrictions have also had to be put on New Zealand's biggest fishery, hoki. The ministry says the western fish stock is below the target level. Catch limits have been cut and the situation is being monitored.

"This fishery yielded 250,000 tonnes in 2000/01, but has been more than halved since then to only 100,000 tonnes this year. Surely this indicates that all is not well below the waves?


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