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Emergency action needed in swordfish fishery

28th November 2006

Minister proposes emergency action in swordfish fishery

Minister of Fisheries Jim Anderton is proposing emergency action in New Zealand’s developing swordfish fishery, in response to unacceptable levels of bird deaths.

“I have been advised that 51 albatrosses and 7 petrels, as well as two critically endangered leatherback turtles were caught by a swordfish vessel in the Kermadec area,” Jim Anderton says. “I am told that most of these birds were Antipodean Albatrosses – a vulnerable species that only breeds in New Zealand waters.

“I’m also advised that other swordfish vessels will soon be fishing in the same area using the same methods. “I don’t want another incident like this occurring in the fishery, so I am proposing immediate action under emergency provisions in the Fisheries Act.

“I have formed the initial view that it is necessary to close the entire Kermadec fisheries (QMA10) to surface long-line fishing, and also make night setting mandatory in all New Zealand surface long-line fisheries, as well as requiring tori lines to ward off birds must be used.

“These emergency measures would remain in place for three months, during which time I will consider what long-term measures will be needed to address the concerning level of by-catch we have seen on this occasion in the swordfish fishery. The Ministry of Fisheries will be consulting stakeholders over the next forty-eight hours and following feedback I will make a final decision on whether to impose the measures.”

During a single trip on a swordfish vessel a Ministry of Fisheries’ observer reported 51 albatrosses and 7 petrels caught. Most of the albatrosses are thought to have been Antipodean Albatross. The leatherback turtles and 17 of the albatrosses were released alive. It is not known if they survived.

Background

Swordfish were brought into New Zealand’s Quota Management System on October 1st this year. Since then they have been the target species in a small, developing fishery involving a few boats in New Zealand’s northern EEZ.

Swordfish (also known as broadbill swordfish) are a strong swimming pelagic species that is found in many parts of New Zealand’s waters and beyond, being part of a southwest Pacific stock.

Prior to the species entering the QMS, commercial fishers were not allowed to target swordfish. It had previously only allowed to be landed as a by-catch of tuna fishing because a permit moratorium introduced in 1993 prohibited the issue of new targeting permits for species other than tuna.

A sustainable catch for swordfish of 885 tonnes was set for 1 October 2004.

Up until 1 October 2006 the Crown held the majority of swordfish quota because initial allocations for this species were allocated on the basis of catch history in the period 1990-92 a period when there was little by-catch of swordfish.

The Crown sold its holding in 2006 and new ownership took effect from 1 October 2006. New interest has resulted in developing a target fishery for swordfish, which began to expand around June of 2006.

MFish has had observer coverage in this new and developing fishery since the beginning of the fishing year.

There are three boats known to be working in the Kermadec Islands area and targeting swordfish.

ENDS

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