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NZ "World's Best" In Deepwater Fishery Management

An Australian expert says New Zealand's management of orange roughy and other deepwater fisheries is the best in the world, despite mistakes with some orange roughy fisheries.

Dr Robert Kearney, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Canberra, was asked by Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson to review a Ministry of Fisheries analysis of the management history of three depleted orange roughy fisheries. Mr Hodgson released Dr Kearney's report today.

Commercial catch limits in the three orange roughy fisheries concerned have been significantly reduced for the coming year to address urgent sustainability concerns. They are the East Cape, Mid-East Coast and Challenger Plateau fisheries, which produced just under 34% of the total orange roughy catch in 1998-99. The Challenger Plateau fishery has effectively been closed.

Dr Kearney said the depletion of the three fisheries was unfortunate but understandable, due to the extreme difficulty and great uncertainty in assessing orange roughy stocks.

With the benefit of hindsight, he said, the fishing industry's favoured strategy of fishing the stocks down rapidly to their sustainable level and then taking a sudden cut in quota – the so-called "hard landing" approach – was a mistake. It depended on "unrealistic expectations of the accuracy of assessments".

Dr Kearney said the performance of New Zealand fisheries scientists was recognised worldwide and orange roughy research – the world's first major deepwater fisheries research programme – was "at the cutting edge".

"Even though New Zealand's orange roughy research has been exemplary and the way in which this research and industry advice have been incorporated into the management process are considered world's best practice, improvement is always possible."

Mr Hodgson said he was pleased Dr Kearney had affirmed the fundamental soundness of New Zealand's fisheries management regime and the high quality of the research underpinning it.

Ends

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