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Commercial fish stocks rise

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 07:43 17/06/2013
Hoki
Fairfax NZ

GOOD REPORT: Both eastern and western stocks of hoki were respectively "very unlikely" and "exceptionally unlikely" to be overfished this year.

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The lines of commercial fishermen fishing for potential quota increases have been reinforced by a scientific report on the state of New Zealand fish stocks.

A Ministry for Primary Industries report last week summarised, in three volumes and more than 1300 pages, scientific research on the status of 82 of New Zealand's commercial fish species.

The 2013 Fisheries Plenary Report provided analysis of where there was scope for additional quotas, as well as where fishing needed to be reeled in.

Statistics last year showed only 0.5 per cent of landings of known fish stocks were below the "hard limit" level, where fishery closures should be considered.

In April, the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, the fishing owner-operators' national body, suggested anecdotal evidence backed an increase in quotas for the next season.

President Doug Sanders-Loder said he would not suggest a host of increases in total allowable commercial catch (TACC) levels, but there was certainly room to do so in key species. Hoki stocks had shown six years of growth, and 130,000 tonnes were caught last year.

The Ministry for Primary Industries' principal adviser for fisheries science, Dr Pamela Mace, said the industry often chose to implement its own quota, below TACC.

"There wasn't a hoki increase last year and that was actually [an] industry decision, but things are looking even better this year.

"It's not my call. I'm one of the scientists and I provide information for other people to make decisions in that regard."

The 2013 report said both eastern and western stocks of hoki were respectively "very unlikely" and "exceptionally unlikely" to be overfished this year.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods owner-operator Nino D'Esposito said hoki stocks on the east coast of the North Island had improved. He also believed southern bluefin tuna and bluenose fish stocks had risen.

"There's more fish. We're catching our TAC every year and we could catch double our TAC if we had it."

He said there was room for quotas to increase for some species because of this. "I think that the quota system is really good.

"Our company is the second-largest private quota holder for southern bluefin tuna and we'll have our quota caught by the end of July, and they're still around in August and September as well."

In March a pacific bluefin tuna with a live weight of 415 kilograms was caught off New Zealand's East Cape, fetching $30,000 at auction.

D'Esposito said bluenose numbers had completely rebounded from dwindling levels in recent years.

"Three or four or five years ago I would have said bluenose was one of the depleting stocks, but now they've just done a 360 and there are heaps of them there again."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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