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Research To Begin on Orange Roughy Stocks

Research to discover more about valuable orange roughy stocks

Research starts next month to discover more about one of New Zealand's most valuable fish species, orange roughy.

The joint research between the Ministry of Fisheries and the Orange Roughy Management Company will focus on the abundance of the species. It will take place in early July on the Chatham Rise, where the world's biggest known stocks of orange roughy occur.

South African experts on acoustic surveying will join scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the Ministry of Fisheries on the NIWA Research Vessel Tangaroa for the collection and recording of data using a combined acoustic-trawl survey. The research is complex, surveying three different habitats to gain comprehensive information that should indicate paths to sustainability.

Senior Fisheries Management Advisor Dr Jim Cornelius says it is essential to conduct this survey in order to manage the fishery in a sustainable fashion.

"The current stock assessment is several years old, leading to greater uncertainty. The survey may show the fish are not present in the numbers we thought or the stock may be larger than current estimates, providing a basis for incremental increases - we need more precise information to set harvest levels."

"Research surveys using either acoustics or trawl are the best, but they are very expensive," says Ministry of Fisheries scientist Dr Pamela Mace. "Industry pays for most of the research and so they want to make sure it is cost effective."

"With the world's biggest known stocks of orange roughy occurring in New Zealand, we have a duty to manage the species responsibly," she said.

Dr Cornelius is in total agreement. "We have to have good science to properly manage these fisheries. One of the Ministry's most important tasks is to ensure that fish stocks are not over fished," he said.

"Surveys provide the information necessary to conduct the stock assessments used to set sustainable harvest levels. It should be an ongoing process, rather than one of crisis management."

Tributes to the Ministry of Fisheries' management of orange roughy have been received from overseas experts such as Dr Robert Kearney, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Canberra, who, in a 2000 report, commented that the performance of the Ministry of Fisheries' scientists was recognised worldwide, and their orange roughy research - the world's first major deepwater fisheries research programme - was "at the cutting edge".

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