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Long-term fishery improvement plan needed for orange roughy

Long-term fishery improvement plan needed for orange roughy not hasty certification

WWF says the priority for orange roughy should be an improvement programme to address sustainability issues with the fishery and not a hasty bid for sustainability certification.

“We should not forget that orange roughy grows very slowly and was fished to near oblivion in record time in the north and south Atlantic as well as in the Southern Ocean,” said Peter Hardstaff, WWF-New Zealand Head of Campaigns.

Orange roughy is one of the most long-lived species that is commercially fished. Individuals can live for well over 100 years so managing stocks is extremely difficult. Fishing for orange roughy can also harm the sea floor and can result in by-catch of other deep water species including sharks.

WWF is deeply concerned that fishing is placing the survival of New Zealand’s orange roughy fish stocks at unacceptable risk and is harming the wider marine environment.

“The latest information on the state of orange roughy stocks shows we are still lacking the knowledge to ensure we don’t make mistakes that have very long-term consequences for the fish and New Zealand’s reputation as responsible fishery managers.”

WWF is opposed to the bid by the Deepwater Group (DWG) to seek Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for some of New Zealand’s orange roughy stocks.

“WWF’s position is that we doubt the New Zealand orange roughy stocks are sustainable in the long term and we do not believe the fishery is ready for sustainability certification.”

WWF has considered the DWG plan for the fishery and have told them that we can not support this as a credible process to address sustainability concerns. It is a short-term process that we believe is deeply flawed.

WWF has proposed to DWG a long-term work programme to help make the orange roughy fishery more sustainable. Regrettably, DWG has rejected this proposal.

Issues that we were keen to progress through a WWF programme, included:
Rebuilding orange roughy stocks by better management targets to help bring them back to sustainable levels.
Protecting any new areas from the impacts of bottom trawling by keeping fishing to the existing areas.
Adopt potential exclusion devices to deal with by-catch of deepwater dogfishes in the fishery whilst continuing to expand knowledge on the biology and ecology of orange roughy in New Zealand waters.
Research into the impact of the fishery on sensitive habitats and how these impacts can be mitigated.
“Because these fish are so slow growing and population recovery rates are likely to be so gradual, what we are facing here is a collision between a lack of knowledge and the need to take an approach that is precautionary,” Mr Hardstaff said.

“While the MSC is undoubtedly the best certification standard for fishery sustainability, we doubt that the assessment process is equipped to adequately account for the special circumstances of orange roughy.

“WWF would be obliged to exercise its right to seek a review of any hasty, rushed assessment that finds the orange roughy stocks are ready to be portrayed as sustainable. But WWF does remain open to efforts to genuinely improve the sustainability of the fishery.”

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