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Sustainable fish guide launched w celebrity chips

8 November 2005 – Wellington

Sustainable fish guide launched with celebrity chips


For the second year in a row, no New Zealand fishery was rated as sustainable in Forest and Bird’s wallet card consumer guide to commercially caught fish.

The Best Fish Guide 05-06 was launched with the support of the Best Fish Guide Ambassador Dobie Blaze, keyboard player from award winning Wellington band Fat Freddy’s Drop. Dobie Blaze cooked and served up chips to invited guests and media at Turnbull House in Wellington.

As Dobie says “Choose wisely, there aren’t plenty more fish in the sea!”

“Of the 68 commercial fisheries we assessed, none have a management plan and most caused significant habitat damage. Some are severely over-fished and many kill seabirds or marine mammals,” said Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“We were hoping that the fishing industry would have made sufficient improvements since last year to justify moving some fisheries into the green “best choice” category, but once again no fishery qualified. This was particularly disappointing given the simple steps needed to make some fisheries sustainable,” he said.

“Over half of the commercial fisheries assessed by Forest and Bird have never had a quantitative stock assessment. Only sixteen have had a full stock assessment in the last ten years. You can’t sustainably manage fish stocks if you don’t now what size they are,” he said.

Adoption of seabird and marine mammal bycatch mitigation should be mandatory for all fisheries.

“The challenge for the fishing industry and the Government is to take the steps needed to improve the management of New Zealand fisheries. If they do the work and can show us the results, we’ll reclassify fish stocks in the green category,” he said.

“We had an overwhelmingly positive to response from the public to the original Best Fish Guide launched in June 2004. Over 125,000 were distributed,” he said.

“Consumers now have up to date information on New Zealand’s fisheries in our Best Fish Guide 05-06,” he said.

“Skipjack tuna is at the top of the amber (concerns) list. The New Zealand catch of skipjack tuna is a minor component of a large Pacific fishery. It is in better shape than many other fisheries, but we are still concerned at the lack of catch limits,” Mr Hackwell said.

“The biggest mover down the list this year has been trevally, although it remains in the (concerns) amber list. A stock assessment that was carried out this year indicated that the fishery may be below its long-term sustainable size,” he said.
“Oysters and scallops have moved into the red list (worst choice) because of concerns about the environmental impact of dredging and the impact of disease on oysters,” he said.

“Once again, orange roughy was at the bottom of the list. Most orange roughy stocks are over-fished and below sustainable levels. One stock is down to 3 percent of its unfished size. This long-lived fish is often caught through bottom trawling, a highly destructive form of fishing,” he said.

Notes

Six new fish species have been added to Forest and Bird’s Best Fish Guide 05-06: skipjack tuna, leatherjacket, bigeye tuna, yellow fin tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna, and swordfish. These species have either been recently added to the quota management system or are highly migratory tuna species that are now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Agreement, which only come into force this year.

Further information
The associated media backgrounder has further information about the Best Fish Guide 05-06 and can be downloaded, along with other information about the Best Fish Guide 05-06 at www.forestandbird.org.nz after 3.00pm today.

Two substantial reports explain the assessments for each fishery and describe the assessment criteria. These reports will be available on the website at www.forestandbird.org.nz/bestfishguide after 3.00pm today.

Fishery Facts
Of New Zealand’s 68 commercial fisheries assessed:
68 have no management plan;
17 are over-fished or there has been a substantial decline in stocks;
51 cause habitat damage;
27 kill significant numbers of seabirds;
32 kill a significant number of marine mammals;
61 catch too much non-target fish;
65 cause adverse ecological effects;
39 have never had a quantitative stock assessment;
16 have had a full stock assessment in the last 10 years (some showed that little was known about the state of the stocks);
3 have quantitative stock assessments which are more than 10 years old;
13 have had only a partial stock assessment in the last 10 years.

The best ten fish (starting at the best)
Skipjack tuna (best)
Pilchards
Anchovy
Sprats
Kina
Blue mackerel
Yellow-eyed mullet
Garfish
Kahawai
Kingfish/Yellowtail

The worst ten fish (starting at the worst)
Orange roughy (worst)
Oreos/Deepwater dory
Pacific bluefin tuna
Southern bluefin tuna
Jack mackerel
Rig/lemon fish
Spiny dogfish
Snapper
Swordfish
Scampi

Fat Freddy’s Drop
Fat Freddy’s Drop won four awards at the recent 2005 New Zealand Music Awards “The Tuis.” They won: Album of the Year, Best Group, Best Aotearoa Roots Album and the People’s Choice Award

Best Fish Guide authors
The 2004 Best Fish Guide was produced by Barry Weeber and Michael Szabo. The 05-06 guide has been revised by Forest and Bird’s senior researcher Barry Weeber. The analysis in the guide is based on more than ten years of work on marine issues by Forest and Bird.

ENDS

See... Best Fish Guide (pdf)


8 November 2005 – Wellington

Media backgrounder

Best Fish Guide 05-06
Key background information


What is the Best Fish Guide?

The Forest and Bird Best Fish Guide is an easy to use consumer guide to the sustainability of fish that are available in New Zealand shops. Consumers can use the Best Fish Guide wallet card to see at a glance which seafood to choose in order to minimize their impact on the marine environment.

This is Forest and Bird’s second Best Fish Guide which ranks the state of New Zealand’s key commercial marine species. Forest and Bird’s first Best Fish Guide was launched in 2004. The full reports on which the new 2005 - 06 Guide rankings are based are available on the Forest and Bird website at www.forestandbird.org.nz/bestfishguide

Why does Forest and Bird produce the Best Fish Guide?

Too many of our fish and shellfish stocks are being fished to the brink of collapse. Consumers’ seafood choices will help tip the scales in favour of better managed commercial fisheries. The choices people make will affect how many albatross, petrels, dolphins, sea lions and seals are killed in commercial fishing operations in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

From the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received since the publication of the first Best Fish Guide in 2004, it is clear that the public wants its seafood to come from ecologically sustainable fisheries.

What has happened since last the first Best Fish Guide was launched last year?

- Over 125,000 wallet card guides where distributed throughout New Zealand.

- 25 public meetings where held around the New Zealand discussing the poor state of New Zealand’s fisheries management.

- In May 2005 the Government decided to regulate commercial fishing operations in order to reduce the annual slaughter of thousands of seabirds, including albatrosses and petrels threatened with extinction.

- In May 2005 the Government recalled the bulk of New Zealand's squid fishing fleet back to port to prevent further albatross and other seabird deaths.

- Since the first Best Fish Guide was launched, the Government has made cuts to allowable takes of hoki, snapper, hake and kahawai to improve the sustainability of these fish stocks.

- The Ministry of Fisheries has released their Strategy for the Management of the Environmental Effects of Fishing (SMEEF). This should lead to better consideration of the environmental effects of fishing in research, management and decision making.

- Esteemed marine oceanographer Sylvia Earle (explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society since 1998 and named Time magazine's first "hero for the planet" in 1998) promoted the guide when she was in New Zealand in 2004.

- Greenpeace have promoted the guide in Europe and used our assessments in a recent report of supermarkets in the UK and fisheries (see http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/oceans/supermarkets/recipe_for_disaster.cfm).

- At the IUCN – World Conservation Congress in Bangkok last year many marine conservationists welcomed our honest assessment of New Zealand fisheries.

- The UK supermarket chain Waitrose, which has 7% of the market share in southern England and is one of the fastest growing fresh food retailers in the UK, decided to stop selling New Zealand orange roughy in part because of its abysmal ranking in the Best Fish Guide.

How were the fish ranked?

Forest and Bird ranked the species on an assessment using the best available scientific information. These rankings used criteria originally developed by the Victoria National Parks Association in Australia and adapted to suit the New Zealand context. These criteria went through two rounds of peer review before it was used to assess fisheries. The criteria are:
- biology of the species and risk of over-fishing;
- status and sustainability of catches;
- management and research;
- fishing method - habitat damage and other fish bycatch; and
- bycatch of seabird and marine mammals.

Each species was then placed into one of three categories:

Green = Relatively well-managed stocks, with good information, and low levels
of habitat damage and bycatch. Unfortunately, no fishery is currently
ranked green.

Amber = Concerns vary and may include the management of stocks, inadequate
information, habitat damage and bycatch levels.

Red = Fishery has many problems which may include poor stock management,
inadequate information, over-fishing, habitat damage and high levels of bycatch.

To find out more details on the criteria and each fish stock and the information used to make the assessment, visit www.forestandbird.org.nz/bestfishguide


How were fish species chosen to be in Forest and Bird’s Best Fish Guide

Forest and Bird assessed wild New Zealand fisheries only. We have not assessed farmed or aquaculture species as the criteria were developed to assess commercial fishes and would need to change. We are looking at developing additional criteria to assess the environmental impacts of these methods.

Forest and Bird also has not assessed imported fish species as it is often difficult to determine country of origin and method of fishing. There are guides developed in a number of countries which can be used to assess imports from the US, UK, Australia or Canada.


Did any species end up in the green/best choice?

Once again no species ended up in the green/best choice, however, a newly listed species (skipjack tuna) ended up in the top of the Amber/Concerns ranking. Forest and Bird considers that it is important to have an honest assessment process – when fish stocks are demonstrably well managed, they will move into the green category.

More information on things as basic as the size and health of the stocks of each fishery would make a big difference. Forest and Bird is concerned that the Ministry of Fisheries is consistently under-spending its research budget of around $20 million per year. For example in the last four years the Ministry has failed to spend on average of nearly $6 million a year and the trend has been getting worse.

What was the best fish?

The best fish was skipjack tuna, a new addition to the list. This fishery ranked highly because of the level of available information, its high productivity, low by-catch and the use of methods (purse seining) that have low habitat impacts.

The best ten fish
Skipjack tuna
Pilchards
Anchovy
Sprats
Kina
Blue mackerel
Yellow-eyed mullet
Garfish
Kahawai
Kingfish/Yellowtail

What was the worst fish?

Once again, orange roughy was at the bottom of the list. Most orange roughy stocks are over-fished and below sustainable levels. One stock is down to 3 percent of its unfished size. This long-lived fish is often caught through bottom trawling, a highly destructive form of fishing.

The worst ten fish (starting at the worst)
Orange roughy
Oreos/Deepwater dory
Pacific bluefin tuna
Southern bluefin tuna
Jack mackerel
Rig/lemon fish
Spiny dogfish
Snapper
Swordfish
Scampi

Are you saying that we shouldn’t eat fish?

No, we are not saying that people shouldn’t eat fish. The Best Fish Guide is about making informed choices as consumers. Your fish purchases have environmental implications. We are suggesting that where ever possible you should choose to eat fish which are in the amber list and avoid fish in the red.

What about fish I catch myself?

Catching your own is usually the most sustainable way to catch a fish. It is important to:
- stick to legal methods,
- stay within bag limits,
- respect marine reserves, marine mammal sanctuaries, taiapure and mataitai, and
- avoid indiscriminate methods like set netting.

What if I see a fish name that is not in the guide?

Seafood names used in the guide are those most commonly used names for each species or stock. You may know the fish under a different name. Visit Forest and Bird’s website to check alternative names of fish. If you cannot find the name of a fish you eat, email us at office@forestandbird.org.nz

What about supermarket cans with no particular fish name?

Ask staff in the supermarket what is in the can. If they cannot tell you, ask the supermarket to find out for you. The more people ask questions while shopping, the more likely it is that your local supermarket will pay closer attention to what fish they stock.

What about buying fish that aren’t named, such as the fish you eat in a restaurant?

Most chefs know which fish they are cooking, so ask the waiting staff what fish is being offered. Tell them about the Best Fish Guide and encourage them to use it when selecting fish for the menu.

What were the main changes for this year’s Best Fish Guide?

No fishery moved up from the red (worst choice) into the amber (concerns) category or into the green (best choice) category. Oysters, queen scallops and scallops moved down from the amber (concerns) to the red (worst choice) category. Trevally dropped from mid way down the amber (concerns) category to near the bottom of this category.

Six new fish species were added: skipjack tuna, leatherjacket, bigeye tuna, yellow fin tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna, and swordfish. These species have either been recently added to the quota management system or are highly migratory tuna species that are now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Agreement, which only come into force this year.

More species are likely to be added in future years as new fish species are added to the quota management system or are managed under new international arrangements.

New species:

Bigeye tuna Thunnus obesus (ranked red – worst choice)
Longline fisheries for this highly migratory species of tuna occurs mainly in the West and East Coast of the North Island from the Bay of Plenty north. New Zealand represents only 3.5 percent of the Pacific catch, which is now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The main markets are are Japan, Australia and USA. Bigeye is internationally listed as a vulnerable threatened species.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks;
- bycatch of sharks, seabirds and fur seals in the longline fishery;
- uncertainty over the stock assessment; and
- the lack of a management plan.

Leather jacket (also known as cream fish, trigger fish) Parika scaber (ranked: red – worst choice)
Most leather jacket is caught as bycatch in a range of trawl fisheries mainly targeting trevally, red gurnard and snapper and, in recent years, squid on the East Coast between Otago and East Cape, in Southland and between Cape Farewell and Cape Foulwind on the West Coast.. The main market is domestic with some exports to Australia. Around 1937 tonnes was caught in 2004.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks;
- bycatch of sharks, seabirds and fur seals in the trawl fishery;
- lack of a stock assessment, catch limits; and
- lack of a management plan.

Pacific bluefin tuna Thunnus orientalis (ranked: red – worst choice)
Pacific Bluefin Tuna, previously known as Northern bluefin tuna in the Pacific, is a migratory species that can move thousands of kilometres in a year. They are occasionally caught in longline fisheries in New Zealand on the West Coast of the South Island and in the Bay of Plenty.

The main markets are Japan, USA and Canada where it is highly prized for sashimi and sushi. Almost all large bluefins are shipped to Japan where they can fetch very high prices. The export value of all tuna species combined was $42 million in 2002.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks;
- severely depleted breeding population;
- the bycatch of seabirds and NZ fur seals in the longline fishery;
- bycatch of a range of shark species; and
- the lack of a management plan.

Skipjack tuna Katsuwonus pelamis (ranked: amber – concerns)
Skip jack tuna went straight to the top of the list in this years Best Fish Guide. They are
predominantly caught by purse seine vessels operating North of New Plymouth and Hawke Bay. The New Zealand catch is a small part of the Pacific fishery which is now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

The main market is for canning outside New Zealand in Fiji and Thailand. Some of the fish is then re-exported back to New Zealand.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks; and
- the lack of catch limits or a management plan.

Yellow fin tuna Thunnus albacares (ranked: red – worst choice)
Yellowfin are caught as a bycatch in the northern bigeye and southern bluefin tuna longline fisheries The New Zealand catch is a very small part (0.03%) of the Pacific fishery which is now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The main markets are Japan, Australia and USA.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks;
- bycatch of sharks, seabirds and fur seals in the longline fishery; and
- lack of a stock assessment, catch limits or a management plan.

Swordfish Xiphias gladius (ranking: red – worst choice)
Swordfish are caught as a bycatch in the northern bigeye and southern bluefin tuna longline fisheries The New Zealand catch is a small part of the Pacific fishery which is now managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The main markets are Japan, Australia and USA.

The main concerns with this fishery are:
- uncertainty about the state of the stocks;
- the bycatch of sharks, seabirds and fur seals in the longline fishery;
- and the lack of a stock assessment, catch limits or a management plan.


Why did oysters, queen scallops and scallops get dropped down the rankings?

After the first Best Fish Guide was launched in 2004, new research raised concerns about the impacts of oyster and scallop dredging on sea floor biodiversity and the structure of sea floor biological communities. For example the Foveaux Strait oyster fishery has decimated the biodiversity associated with the Cinctopora bryozoan reefs. These reefs, which used to form a significant part of the Strait, have been all but wiped out by the fishery.

The new information from the review of the environmental effects of oyster and scallop fishing led to them being moved into the red list.

Why was trevally dropped down the rankings?

A stock assessment which was carried out during the year provided new information which indicated that the state of the main stocks is not as healthy as first thought and that the fishery may be below its long term sustainable size.

Why is Hoki, which is certified by Marine Stewardship Council, ranked 11th worst choice - surely it’s a well-managed fishery?

Hoki is one of our most important fisheries. It was certified as a sustainable fishery by the UK based Marine Stewardship Council in 2001. Forest and Bird opposed the MSC’s certification of hoki on the grounds that the fishery kills hundreds of NZ fur seals and nearly as many albatrosses and petrels each year, and the fishery was in a poor shape. Forest and Bird later lost an appeal against the certification, however, our concerns about the management of the fishery have been borne out by subsequent events – catch limits have had to be reduced by over 60 percent in the last four years.

Our concerns over the hoki fishery are:
- The two separate stocks (East coast and West Coast) are managed as a single stock;
- The significant decline in both stocks - one stock is now below 20 percent of what it was in the early 1990s;
- Bycatch of other deepwater species;
- Bycatch of fur seals;
- Bycatch of a range of petrel and albatross species, many of which are threatened species;
- The impact of bottom trawling on the seafloor.

Hoki is now being reassessed as to whether it can renew its MSC certification. Forest and Bird is waiting to see the results. The MSC lost significant credibility over its original decision to certify hoki as it is clearly not a well managed or environmentally sustainable fishery.

Why are flatfishes and jack mackerel listed in the red?

Some people have asked why flatfishes and jack mackerel are listed low in the red as some of these are fast growing species. Unlike most quota species, the eight flatfish species are managed as a single fishery so that one catch limit is set for the total catch of the eight flatfish species in each quota management area. The same approach is taken with the three jack mackerel species. This is a highly risky strategy as the different species have varying biologies.

There are no quantitative stock assessments for flat fish. For some of the flat fish species even basic biological information like maximum age or growth rate is not known.

There has been only one quantitative stock assessment for jack mackerel and that was for a single area in 1992, there has been no assessment since then. In the large West Coast of the North Island fishery there is a significant bycatch of dolphins with bottom and middle depth trawls. This also affects the listing.

Forest and Bird hopes that the ranking of flatfish and jack mackerel will improve with new information such as quantiative stock assessments and better biological information for each individual species in these fisheries. Forest and Bird is promoting more research on these species.

Are shrimps and prawns in the Best Fish Guide?

The New Zealand scampi fishery is amongst the worst ten fisheries. Forest and Bird has not assessed shrimps or prawns imported into New Zealand but both shrimp and prawn trawling and shrimp farming would rate very poorly:
- Shrimp and prawn trawlers, particularly those in the tropics, can catch over 400 marine species in their nets. Up to 20 times the target catch is caught as 'bycatch' which is often discarded, dead.
- Despite producing less than 2% of global seafood, shrimp fisheries alone are responsible for one-third of the world's discarded catch.

Regional differences of species?

Concern was expressed that the rankings did not take into account regional differences in the amount of fish caught and the health of different region’s fish stocks. While regional differences do exist in sustainability for some species it would have been too complicated to present these differences in a consumers guide. In addition, given the movement of fish product around New Zealand, especially for supermarkets, it is not possible to determine the origin of these fish species. For these reasons we assessed the fisheries based on methods, impacts and management over the entire national stock.
Fishery Facts:

Of New Zealand’s 68 commercial fisheries assessed:

68 have no management plan
17 are over-fished or there has been a substantial decline in stocks
51 cause habitat damage
27 kill significant numbers of seabirds
32 kill a significant number of marine mammals
61 catch too much non-target fish
65 cause adverse ecological effects
39 have never had a quantitative stock assessment;
16 have had a full stock assessment in the last 10 years (some showed that little was known about the state of the stocks).
3 have quantitative stock assessments which are more than 10 years old;
13 have had only a partial stock assessment in the last 10 years;

Every year over 2000 commercial fishing vessels fish in New Zealand waters:
- Catching 550,000 tonnes of fish;
- Setting 10,000 km of nets;
- Setting 50 million hooks;
- Making 100,000 trawls;
- Making 90,000 dredge tows.
This adds up to industrial scale pressures on fish and the wider marine environment.

Failure to implement the Fisheries Law
17 of our fisheries are overfished or there has been a substantial decline in stocks. 51 cause habitat damage and almost all catch non-target fish species, while 27 kill significant numbers of seabirds and 32 kill a significant number of marine mammals. Amazingly none of the commercial fisheries have a management plan. Why are things so grim? The main reason has been the failure of successive governments to insist that the Ministry of Fisheries actually implements the key sustainability provisions of the Fisheries Act 1996.

While the law requires that fish stocks be managed at or above the Maximum Sustainable Yield for that fishery, major fisheries such as orange roughy, hoki, blue cod, snapper, (etc), have been managed for many years well below this legal requirement. If the fishing industry, the Ministry of Fisheries and the Government will not take action – you can.

Threatened fish stocks
Almost all our commercially fished species are being exploited to their lowest population levels ever. For example, southern bluefin tuna is now listed as a critically endangered species. Orange roughy, hoki and oreo stocks have been mis-managed, and there is a clear problem with the number of non-target fish being caught. But it is not just fish stocks that are in trouble – so are endangered seabird and dolphin species such as the royal albatrosses that drown on longlines set for tuna and the Hector’s dolphins that drown in set nets meant for rig or lemonfish, a shark species often used for fish and chips in New Zealand.

Where can I find other guides?

You can search similar ecological certification or ranking lists in other countries. For example, National Audubon Society is the BirdLife International partner organisation in the USA and have compiled the “Seafood Lover’s Guide” on their website. You can link to it via Forest and Bird’s website or via www.audubon.com.

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