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Orange Roughy Fishery Should Be Closed

Forest and Bird today called on the Government to close the Challenger orange roughy fishery after the latest research showed that it had plummeted to perilously low levels.

Society spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said it was untenable for the fishing to continue for orange roughy on the Challenger plateau when the population was only 3 percent of its size in 1980.

"The Challenger orange roughy fishery is around 200 nautical miles west of Taranaki. It has been fished since the early 1980s."

Mr Weeber said the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson must take action this year to close the fishery to allow this long lived species to recover.

"We have virtually wiped out this fishery. It is a terrible indictment of New Zealand's fisheries management."

"Deepwater fishing for orange roughy and other species is leaving a terrible legacy for the future. Fish nets are not only killing long-lived orange roughy but are severely damaging their marine habitat."

Mr Weeber said deep sea corals up to several metres high are being smashed by the trawl nets.

Mr Weeber said that while orange roughy have been aged at well over 100 years, these coral features removed by trawlers are even older. Gorgonian corals have been aged by NIWA at over 500 years and bamboo corals at over 300 years."

"It will take centuries, if not millennia, for the marine environment to recover from the impacts of trawling for orange roughy and deepwater oreos."

For further information contact: Barry Weeber (04)385-7374 or (025)622-7369

Notes: The decline of Orange roughy fisheries

Orange roughy are considered to live to well over 100 years old and not start breeding till they are 23 to 29 years old. They are fished at depths of 700 to 1000m where they form dense spawning or feeding aggregations. These aggregations are often associated with seamounts, pinnacles or canyons. They are often caught in association with black and smooth oreos which are also long-lived.

State of Orange Roughy Fisheries

Fishery % initial population left % of min target (30%) Current trend Current catch limit (TACC) Estimated Current Annual Yield Challenger 3 9 Declining 1425 220 Northern unknown Unknown Declining? 1190 Unknown East Cape 14 46 Declining 2000 130 East Coast North Island 10 30 Declining 1261 770 NW Chatham Rise 21-44 70-144 Declining 2250 930-2600 NE & E Chatham Rise 17-21 56-70 Unclear 4950 incl Sth Rise 3400-4400 South Chatham Rise Unknown Unknown Declining catch rates 4950 incl NE & E Chatham R Unknown Puysegur 7 22 Unclear closed 90-340 Southern Areas Unknown Unknown Declining? 5000 Unknown WC South Island 22 73 Unknown 430 200

Orange roughy stocks: ORH 1: Principally Bay of Plenty - the main fishery started in 1995 and the state of the stock is unknown but a trawl survey in 1998 noted a 95 percent decline in spawning population size. The previous Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, refused to take action to reduce the catch limit. The fishing industry did not honour an agreement to carry out another trawl survey in 1999 to check on the stock size. Action: A survey is to take place in June this year which could result in cuts to catches this year.

ORH 2A (North): East Cape North Island - the main fishery started in 1994 but the most recent assessment indicates that this stock is now half the minimum target size of 30%. While a cut in the catch limit occurred in 1998 the previous Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, did not take a decision in 1999 to further cut the catch limit. The industry has in the past opposed a staggered reduction in catch limits to prevent over-fishing. Action: Further cuts in catches must happen this year.

ORH 2A (South), 2B, 3B: East Coast North Island - this fishery started in the early 1980s and has reduced the stock to 10 percent of its unfished size. Current catches are above some estimated of sustainable yield and it is unclear whether the stock is rebuilding. Action: Further cuts in catches must happen this year.

ORH3B (Chatham Rise): North-east and Eastern end: This may have once been the world's largest orange roughy stock. The population has been reduced to around 17 percent of its unfished size in just under 20 years. Current catches are above some estimates of sustainable yield and it is unclear whether the stock is rebuilding. North-West: This population may or may not be above minimum sustainable limits. The assessment is highly uncertain and has not been updated for several years. Puysegur: This fishery was closed in 1998 after the stock had crashed to 7 percent of it unfished state after 8 years. The fishing industry are talking about opening this fishery in the next year. Auckland Islands and Antipodes: Recent evidence indicates these fisheries have been reduced to very low levels. Past catches were not sustainable but the Minister of Fisheries has refused to take action in the last 2 years to better control these small fisheries. Other areas: State or size of other southern populations are unknown. Action: Catch limits need reducing in southern areas.

ORH 7A (Challenger Plateau - West Coast South Island) - Fishing which stated in the early 1980s has reduced this stock to 3 percent of its unfished state. Catch were reduced in 1998 when further concerns were raised as to whether the stock was rebuilding. Further reductions were supposed to happen in 1999 but the Minister of Fisheries, John Luxton, refused to put it on last year's sustainability round. Action: this fishery should be closed.

ORH 7B (West Coast South Island) - Fishing which started in the mid-1980s has reduced this stock to around 22 percent of its unfished size. Current catches are still above most estimates of sustainable yield.

Source: Most of the information on the state of orange roughy stocks is based on Stock Assessments reviewed by the May 2000 Ministry of Fisheries Stock Assessment Plenary and "Report of the Fishery Assessment Plenary, April 1999: stock assessments and yield estimates" compiled by Annala J H, Sullivan K J and O'Brien C J, Science policy Ministry of Fisheries, May 1999.

Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373 www.forest-bird.org.nz

ends

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