Opposing views on fishing

TAKING STOCK: Matt Watson of Kerikeri, host of The ITM Fishing Show.
TAKING STOCK: Matt Watson of Kerikeri, host of The ITM Fishing Show.

The New Zealand seafood industry has been recognised for its efforts to achieve high standards of environmental good practice, with the accreditation of three key offshore fisheries: albacore tuna, hoki and southern blue whiting, by the internationally recognised Marine Stewardship Council standard.

Deepwater Group chief executive George Clement says he commends the fishing companies involved for their commitment in seeking this certification.

"It is not easily won," he says.

Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Scott Gallacher says he is excited about the hoki fishery, certified as sustainable by the council for a third time.

"The Ministry is committed to sustainable utilisation of our fisheries and we fully support the public review and endorsement of our management practices offered by MSC certification."

Mr Doug Saunders-Loder, president of the Tuna Management Association says the certification of the New Zealand albacore troll fishery reiterates New Zealand's resolve to managing all fish stocks within its Economic Exclusion Zone in a sustainable manner.

But Far North fishing identity Matt Watson points out that there are around 130 species of fish targeted commercially in NZ waters and the fact that only three are recognised as sustainable is "nothing to be proud of".

Mr Watson, who hosts the ITM Fishing Show, is a strong advocate for best possible use of New Zealand's marine resources.

He says albacore is fished sustainably in New Zealand, because the fish are targeted with trolled lures on hook and line.

"By-catch is minimal and can be released and there is no impact on the marine environment - it's at the other end of the scale to bottom trawling.

"From what I've seen, albacore are in good numbers and they are a fish you can buy with a guilt-free conscience."

However albacore should not be confused with yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna and big-eye tuna that are all endangered and fished for using unsustainable methods, he says.

"From what I know about the hoki fishery, fish stocks are still quite healthy but the bottom trawling method does damage the seafloor and there is by-catch.

"While I believe that the by-catch level is reasonable on New Zealand boats, the hoki fishery is fished heavily by foreign-owned and crewed boats, chartered by the big New Zealand fishing companies.

"These boats are notorious for overfishing, under-reporting catches, fish dumping and poor working conditions for crew."

Mr Watson says these factors may not be considered by the council.

"But as far as I'm concerned New Zealand fish should be caught by New Zealand crews and boats, this way it can be managed effectively and the jobs and profits stay in New Zealand."

He says the southern blue whiting is an obscure fishery.

"It seems as if the New Zealand seafood industry is clutching at straws to get some good PR to crow about in the face of all the recent bad press of fish dumping, overfishing and killing of marine mammals and sea birds."