Boost to hoki quota could net $50m

Last updated 07:54 22/07/2013

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A potential 20,000-tonne increase in the hoki quota could lift export revenues for the fish by as much as $50 million a year, making it New Zealand's most valuable seafood export, ahead of lobster.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has recently cast its feedback lines out for consultation on the health of New Zealand's fish stocks.

MPI recently issued its Initial Proposition Papers on recommendations to changes on quotas for various fish stocks for the next fishing season, beginning on October 1 this year.

Hoki, the stocks of which had shown six years of growth, recorded 130,000 tonnes in fishing last year, and the quota could be raised by 20,000 tonnes ahead of the next season.

MPI's report, which provided detailed scientific analysis on where there was scope for additional quotas, as well as where fishing needed to be reeled in, suggested the hoki stock would remain stable if catches were increased.

In 2012, the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for hoki was 130,000 tonnes.

DeepWater Group chief executive George Clement said there were two elements to consider before adjusting a stock's quota.

"We have to manage it sustainably, and with all these stocks, there's going to be fluctuations and years where we'll put it up, and there'll be years when we bring it down. This is the year to put it up."

A 20,000-tonne increase in the hoki quota could create an extra $40 million to $50m in export revenues, which would make it New Zealand's most valuable seafood export.

Nelson-based fishing companies Sealord and Talley's hold 30 per cent and 20 per cent of the hoki quota respectively.

Statistics NZ figures showed for the year to 2012, New Zealand seafood exports were worth $1.4 billion, with China the biggest market at $353m a year.

Rock lobster was the most valuable export at $223m, ahead of hoki which was worth $195m in 2012.

Clement said fisheries management was similar to lambing percentages, where depending on the number more or less could be fished.

MPI is calling for submissions on fish stocks by August 9 this year, before a final decision is made as to the 2013 season TACCs.

Forest and Bird's Best Fish Guide for 2013 and 2014, which measures a fishery's impact on the environment, rated hoki as a "worst choice" for consumers.

Forest and Bird said hoki fishing's impact on its surrounding environment, including a bycatch of hundreds of fur seals, meant "the fishery has significant impacts on the seafloor, altering seabed communities".

Clement, however, said New Zealand's hoki fisheries had Marine Stewardship Council certification, an international standard which measures fish stocks, environmental impacts and fishery management.

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New Zealand's hoki fishery was one of the first to receive recertification for this stock in 2007, which was renewed in August last year.

Clement said New Zealand had one of the best managed fisheries in the world, and Forest and Bird did not use recognised international standards for their ratings. "An increase of 30,000 tonnes, it's still sustainable," he said. "Increasing it by 10,000 or 20,000 tonnes is modest to conservative." Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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