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Overfishing Of Orange Roughy And Hoki Continues

28 September 2001

Forest and Bird today criticised the Minister of Fisheries, Pete Hodgson, for failing to make greater reductions in orange roughy and hoki catch limits.

Society Senior Researcher, Barry Weeber said the Minister had failed to take a precautionary approach when setting new catch limits for hoki and several orange roughy populations. The new fishing year starts on 1 October.

"Orange roughy are a long-lived slow growing species and any fishery needs to be managed very carefully. We have not done that in the past and it is critical we take decisive action."

"The changes in catch limits for the orange roughy fishery on the Chatham Rise and further south will not adequately safeguard fish populations. We need to take stronger action to conserve orange roughy populations in these areas."

"A new assessment on the South Chatham Rise has documented the serial depletion of fish populations on seamount after seamount over the last 15 years. This assessment indicates the fishery has been reduced to one-quarter of its unfished size."

Mr Weeber said the failure to make changes in the East Coast of the North Island orange roughy fishery which was promised last year, is deeply disappointing. "It appeared the Minister was letting the fishing industry off the hook rather than taking the action required by the Fisheries Act 1996."

"Deepwater fishing for orange roughy and other species is leaving a terrible legacy for the future. Fish nets are not only killing long-lived orange roughy but are devastating their marine habitat."

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Mr Weeber said deep sea corals up to several metres high are being smashed by the trawl nets as they bulldoze the sea floor to catch orange roughy.

"While orange roughy have been aged at well over 100 years, these coral features destroyed by trawlers are even older. Gorgonian corals trawled up in fishing nets have been aged by NIWA at over 500 years and bamboo corals at over 300 years.

"It will take centuries, if not millennia, for the marine environment to recover from the impacts of trawling for orange roughy and deepwater oreos."

Mr Weeber said the cuts to orange roughy fisheries off the West Coast of the South Island was welcomed but unfortunately, these cuts may be too little, too late.

"The 20 percent cut to the hoki fishery is likely to be insufficient to stop a further slide in hoki populations. The estimates of sustainable yield for hoki is under 150,000 tonnes, while the change reduces the allowed catch to 200,000 tonnes."

Mr Weeber said the latest stock assessment compiled by the Ministry of Fisheries shows that the Cook Strait and Chatham Rise population of hoki is in a sorry state and the West Coast population is not much better.

"Hoki has suffered from poor recruitment for many years but this had not been adequately considered by the Ministry in the past. Action should have been taken last year to reverse the decline in hoki but our calls have been ignored by the Ministry."

Mr Weeber said the cut in the hoki catch should reduce the deaths of fur seals and albatrosses that occur in this fishery - a bright point in an otherwise gloomy picture.


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