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Cuts to snapper, oreo and rig quota needed

21 July 2004 - Wellington

Cuts to snapper, oreo and rig quota needed

Despite clear evidence of over-fishing, the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) is refusing to review fishing quotas for snapper, oreos and rig (lemon fish).

Forest and Bird has written to the Minister of Fisheries David Benson-Pope and asked him to reduce the catch limits for snapper in the West Coast of the North Island (including Auckland's West Coast), rig in Nelson and the West Coast, and oreos in Southland.

"Forest and Bird is disappointed but not surprised that MFish's failure to propose reductions in these stocks," said Forest and Bird's Senior Researcher Barry Weeber.

"Forest and Bird has been involved in making submissions on proposals for changes in catch limits and regulations for nearly 15 years. During that time we have been consistently disappointed at the slow response by MFish to fish stocks that are in decline," he said.

"MFish has again failed to take its environmental responsibilities seriously," he said.

SNAPPER

"Snapper is a very important recreational fishery which is under pressure from over fishing. The stocks on the West Coast of the North Island (SNA8) are well below the level that would support the maximum sustainable yield," he said

"The new snapper 8 assessment indicates that the stock is between 6-14% of the unfished biomass, but it should be at more than 20% of the original biomass," he said.

"The snapper fishery is expected to take between 14 and 30 years to recover to legal minimum biomass at current levels of fishing. Yet John Luxton, who was the Minister of Fisheries in 1998 planned to have snapper recover by 2008. Even then, snapper will only be one fifth of its original biomass, so it's no wonder recreational fishers have complained," Barry Weeber said.

"From the information available it is our assessment that the catch limit for the snapper SNA8 fishery should be cut by at least 20 percent," he said.

RIG

"Rig, like any other shark species, has very low productivity and can be easily over fished, especially where a fishery targets pregnant females. The Nelson and the West Coast (SPO7) rig fishery is well over fished," he said.

"We are staggered that MFish is not proposing to cut the catch limit for rig in the SPO7 fishery. From the information available it is our assessment that the catch limit should be cut by at least 50 percent. The catch limits well exceed the amount of rig that fishers can find," he said.

"The rig catch rate in Tasman Bay/Golden Bay (area 038) has declined by 70 percent between 1989/90 and 2002/03. Commercial fishers can no longer even catch their allowable limit," he said.

"MFish has failed to act on its own rules that require a reconsideration of the management of rig in the SPO7 fishery following low catch rates in 2001/02 and 2002/03," he said.

OREOS

"Oreos are a long lived, slow growing, deep water species with biological characteristics and deep water habitat requirements similar to orange roughy. Oreos are vulnerable to over fishing. The current oreo catch in the Southland fishery is unsustainable," he said.

"MFish's own stock assessment report for oreos in Southland concluded that catches 'are probably not sustainable'. From the information available it is our assessment that the catch limit for the oreo OEO1 fishery should be cut by at least 50 percent," he said.

OTHER STOCKS ALSO NEED ATTENTION

"These are not the only stocks in trouble. Other stocks that also need to be reconsidered are orange roughy north of Bay of Plenty and Raglan and paua in Southland/Otago and Marlborough Sounds. We will again be writing to the Minister of Fisheries as we make our own assessments of the scale of cuts that are needed," he said.

ENDS

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