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Campaign document masquerades as Consumer Guide

5 February 2012

Campaign document masquerades as Consumer Guide

The about to be published Best Fish Guide from the Forest and Bird Society is likely to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing if it is anything like previous editions. Those have been no more than campaign documents made to look like respectable guides to what fish we should eat, says the Seafood Industry Council.

“The updated guide, to be released this week, is expected to say that there are very few New Zealand fish species that we can eat with a clear conscience. Not only is this wrong, but it is also an affront to the commonsense of the New Zealand consumer”, says Peter Bodeker, Chief Executive of the Seafood Industry Council.

“The proper guide to what fish can be eaten is what fish is available in any reputable fish shop, because all commonly eaten species are part of the government-managed Quota Management System which uses independent scientific data to manage fish stocks. If stocks are depleted the total allowable catch is reduced, sometimes to zero if that’s necessary. “A very good example of its effectiveness is the hoki fishery,” he says.

Science indicated significantly reduced stocks between 1995-2001 of this normally common species. In response massive cuts were made to catch limits which hurt the industry, but it was accepted. Science now indicates the stock has rebuilt and cautious increases in the catch limits have been introduced.

“This is the system working as it should,” says Mr Bodeker.

For more than a decade now the New Zealand hoki fisheries have met the stringent requirements of the world’s best known marine sustainability certifier, the Marine Stewardship Council.

“Apparently this is not good enough for Forest and Bird,” he says.

The objection of Forest and Bird is the use of bottom trawling. However, much of the hoki catch is at mid depths not the bottom, and where bottom trawling takes place it is largely around the Chatham Rise and sub-Antarctic where international research suggests such trawling does not have long lasting effects because the seabed is a soft sediment and repairs in short to medium timeframes.

Snapper is one of our most commonly caught recreational fish. Some areas of the country have reduced stocks and the total allowable catch has been reduced to compensate. In other areas such as the East Coast and Gulf Harbour, snapper are plentiful and there is absolutely no reason to prohibit snapper takes in these areas. “Yet Forest and Bird give the thumbs down to snapper,” he says.

“This so-called guide is a designed to instill guilt into the consumer. This is very unfair. “Of course commercial fishing impacts fish stocks and at times the environment. However, care is taken to minimize these impacts and technology and practice improvements are also helping lessen these effects.

“These impacts have to be balanced with the fact that New Zealanders like fish. It is a healthy dietary option. It is fresh and increasingly affordable. One of the privileges of living in a country like this is the chance to access affordable good quality fresh fish. “Forest and Bird describe their approach as pre-cautionary. In fact, it is very narrow and cumbersome to the point of misleading. We are hopeful that the upcoming publication is more accurate and realistic,” says Bodeker.


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