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Hoki quota increase under international spotlight

29 September 2009

Hoki quota increase under international spotlight

Today’s Government decision to increase hoki quota is irresponsible, and comes at a time when global markets have the sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries in the spotlight, say the Greens.

“The Government has made a rash decision to fish for short-term cash rather than long-term sustainable exports and jobs,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“The hoki fishery needs to prove its sustainability, and clean up its environmental act, before the quotas should be increased.”

“This decision may damage our fish exports, and fishing jobs, because there are already international concerns about the sustainability of hoki.”

Earlier this month, a New York Times feature article highlighted sustainability concerns about New Zealand hoki. Hoki is often used in ‘Filet-O-Fish’ burgers in US takeaway chains.

A major fast food chain in the United States – Yum Brands, who own Long John Silver’s – has revoked its “certified as sustainable” rating for hoki, and now says it is “not on the menu.”

Hoki catch limits were progressively reduced from 250,000 tonnes in 2001 to 90,000 tonnes in 2007 – a massive cut of two-thirds –because the fishing rate was unsustainable.

“The fishery was clearly overfished – it is now slowly recovering, but is far from healthy” said Mrs Turei. “It is naive to presume all is well again and raise the quota so soon.”

The latest stock assessment shows that hoki are still less than half their 1990 abundance, and the Western stock only marginally within the 'target zone'.

“A 2009 Ministry of Fisheries report that concluded ‘there was clear evidence of mis-reporting in the hoki fishery’ also shows that the assessments need to be treated with caution,” said Mrs Turei.

Stock assessments note that 48% of last year's catch in the largest fishing ground on the Chatham Rise were juveniles, the fishery uses bottom-trawling methods extensively, and that the fishery kills over 300 fur seals annually.

“The increase in quota is likely to result in more needless damage to our sea-floor and more seal deaths.”

“Hoki can become a sustainable fishery for New Zealand, and is slowly improving, but it needs to apply a good dose of caution, cease destructive bottom-trawling, and drastically reduce its by-catch of New Zealand fur seals and albatrosses.”

Mrs Turei has revived a former Government bill for the Member’s ballot to ensure the Minister is required to act with caution where information is incomplete or absent.

References:
New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/science/10fish.html?em
Hoki stock assessment: http://fs.fish.govt.nz/Doc/21734/37_HOK_09.pdf.ashx
Latest stock assessment: http://www.fish.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/3EA98FE0-A946-49D1-8FB5-891A21A8BC13/0/2009HokiStockAssessmentresults.pdf

MFish report: linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0308597X08001590

ENDS

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