Report confirms fish stocks doing well

Freshly-caught hoki aboard the Sealord trawler Otakou.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAXNZ

Freshly-caught hoki aboard the Sealord trawler Otakou.

Seafood New Zealand has hailed an independent environment stocktake showing that fish stocks are in good shape. 

Environment Aotearoa 2015 - a comprehensive, independent and nationwide set of statistics released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand says that commercial fisheries are sustainably managed and overfishing is decreasing. 

It says that between 2009 and 2014, the proportion of New Zealand's  fish stocks subject to overfishing decreased from 25 per cent to 14 per cent and that in 2014, more than 95 per cent of fish caught were from stocks that are  not overfished.

But it also notes that fishing bycatch remains the "main pressure" on seabirds, with 35 per cent of species threatened with extinction.  

Seafood NZ chief executive Tim Pankhurst said the report confirmed the body of science saying that fish stocks were in good heart and improving. 

It records that seabed trawling is decreasing, with the number of dredge tows falling by 83 per cent between 1996 and 2014.

It says trawling now mainly happens in the same areas each year, limiting the harm to newly-affected habitat and species.

Pankhurst said New Zealand had international recognition for its sustainable seafood industry.

"Seventy four per cent of New Zealand's deepwater seafood production is certified sustainable by the international body, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the gold-star for sustainable seafood."

He said the pressure of bycatch on seabirds and marine mammals was of concern to the industry, which had invested "heavily" in research and technologies to reduce its impact, and continued to work with Government agencies and the NGO sector.

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The report says that between 2002 and 2014 the estimated number of seabirds caught each year fell from 7280 to 4380.

"This decrease may be partly due to the fishing industry using bird-scaring devices and other measures to prevent bycatch," it says.

Some other findings:

- The most serious long-term pressures on our marine environment are likely to be caused by climate change.  Ocean acidification poses the greatest threat to habitats, by directly affecting marine species and ecosystem processes.

- Eight of our 30 indigenous marine mammal species are threatened with extinction.

- Of the 92 indigenous seabird species and subspecies that breed in New Zealand, 35 percent are threatened with extinction. A further 55 percent are at risk of extinction.

- The extent of seabed trawled for the first time, where the potential for damage is greatest, has been decreasing each year since 2007.

 - Stuff

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