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Fisheries Ministry Observers At Work This Summer

Hon Jim Anderton
Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education
Progressive Leader

Observers at work this summer

While many people will be heading to the beach and casting a line during their holidays, Fisheries Ministry observers will be on commercial fishing vessels, dissecting fish and gathering scientific information to help us manage our fisheries, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.

Observers largely focus on three key areas:

* collecting scientific information on particular fish

* monitoring real scenarios of by-catch of protected species

* checking on compliance with fishing rules

Jim Anderton said, "often, all three areas were covered, so that the time at sea was used in the best possible way.

"This year, we have around fifty-five observers who are spread amongst inshore, deepwater and international fisheries."

"The past three years have seen more emphasis on inshore fishing because it is an area identified as requiring more information," he said.

This includes addressing how protected species such as Hector's and Maui's dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins, fare during fishing operations.

The wider outlook of the annual observation programme for 2007/2008 focuses on gathering information on some of New Zealand's key fisheries such as orange roughy, tuna, hoki and squid.

Jim Anderton said that ultimately, all of that work meant the day-to-day role of an observer often comes down to recording a lot of detailed data, addressing the biomass of a particular fishery - including weighing them, measuring them, and identifying their sex.

The observer programme also sets aside days for key purposes such as monitoring compliance issues or doing targeted research for the Department of Conservation, he said.

"In addition, New Zealand vessels fishing in international waters, must adhere to international agreements. In the CCAMLAR fishing zone, for example, (Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), this involves 100% coverage for all NZ vessels operating in the area.

"It's all information that the Ministry of Fisheries then utilises for stock analysis of key species, the setting of Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACC) and monitoring wider impacts of fishing on the environment."

Jim Anderton said that was all vitally important work, as it was used to manage our more than $1 billion commercial fishing industry.


* The observer programme is fully cost recovered from the commercial fishing industry.

* The observer programme currently has 55 observers: 47 male/ 8 female

* Observer coverage is often steered by fish stock monitoring or the request for more scientific data

* Average inshore fishery trips range from 1 to10 days

* Offshore fisheries trips average 35 days

* International trips can be as long as four months.

* Observers can earn up to $312 per day depending on experience and level of work required

For more information on the observer programme, visit


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