Orange roughy stock rebound reopens southern fishery after 19 years

Commonweath Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists working on AOS

Commonweath Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists working on AOS

A orange roughy fishery south of Stewart Island has been given the green light to reopen after 19 years.

In 1998, the seafood industry agreed to cease fishing in an area known as ORH3B Puysegur running from Jackson Bay on the West Coast, southwards beyond Auckland Island.

The embargo was intended to rest the fishery and allow stocks to rebuild.

Orange Roughy

Orange Roughy

Industry body Deepwater Group chief executive George Clement said the Puysegur stock had now rebuilt to almost 50 per cent of its original biomass, allowing the Minister for Primary Industries to approve an increase in the catch limit from October 1.

"The commercial catch limit here has been increased to 347 tonnes, allowing a very conservative harvest rate of only four orange roughy out of every 100 in the population."

The reopening followed the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of three other orange roughy stocks as sustainable late last year, Clement said.

"This is yet another example of world class fisheries management, where industry, Government and scientists collaborate in the best long-term interests of the fishery."

According to a Ministry for Primary Industries report, problems with roughy stocks first arose due to unsustainably high catch limits during the 1980s and 1990s.

Because orange roughy was a slow-growing, late-maturing fish species, high catches had prevented stocks from replenishing naturally over time.

This had necessitated the fishing embargo from 1998, the ministry said.

"Fishing began in the late 1970s, with the largest annual catches of over 50,000 tonnes taken in the late 1980s. The management strategy at the time was to 'fish down' the population to a level which would ensure that, as long it remained near this level, the fisheries would be healthy in the future. This was difficult to achieve with accuracy, and in some orange roughy fisheries there was too much fishing in the early years."

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The species reached adulthood between 25 and 30 years of age, and could live to 130.

Other fisheries closed during the 1998 embargo that had now reopened included ORH3B ESCR and ORH3B NWCR covering eastern oceanic waters from Dunedin to Ward in Marlborough, and ORH7A covering the South Island's northwestern corner, from Westport to the Marlborough Sounds.

Those fisheries, and newly reopened Puysegur, were being closely monitored to assess roughy stocks, Clement said.

"Over the past 19 years, the industry has contracted a number of research surveys from NIWA and CSIRO to monitor the rebuild and to inform a new stock assessment in 2017.

"This is the Quota Management System working at its best. It is a science-based tool to objectively assess stocks and to adjust catches to ensure the harvest levels are sustainable.

"It's not surprising that New Zealand's [system] is held up as an example to the rest of the world."

Elsewhere, Deepwater Group was also supporting the Ministry for Primary Industries proposal to reduce the catch from the hake fishery HAK7 for the next two years, while uncertainties in the 2017 stock assessments were addressed, Clement said.

The commercial quota for the area - from Jackson Bay to Ward, covering waters predominantly to the northwest of the South Island - would be reduced from 7,700 to 5,064 tonnes.

 - Stuff

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