Deepwater Group CEO George Clement: fisheries are “something that we should treasure and make sure that our grandchildren can still make the equivalent of $300 million a year”.
New Zealand’s three largest orange roughy fisheries have been recertified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable, providing a boost for the $300 million a year industry.
The fisheries, which represent 73% of New Zealand’s orange roughy harvests, have been independently certified as sustainable for the second five-year period by the MSC.
The MSC is an independent international NGO, setting science-based standards for ecosystem-based fisheries management.
New Zealand has the largest orange roughy fisheries in the world, representing around 80% of the global catch.
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MPI fisheries compliance national manager Steve Ham said the ministry was “absolutely satisfied” with the sentencing of Hawke’s Bay Seafoods.
The majority of orange roughy processed in New Zealand is exported as frozen fillets with 80% (by volume) exported to the USA and 14% to Australia.
Deepwater Group CEO George Clement said in the late 80s and early 90s, it was thought you could take about 20% of what was there. However, “it proved to be too much.”
“I don’t use the word collapse, but the stocks were fished down to low levels.
“The good thing about fishing is if you reduce catches, or even stop catching, which we did in the case of many of the orange roughy fisheries, they come back quite quickly, in this case, within a decade.”
Clement said they now had more sophisticated measures of counting fish, and instead of taking about one and five, the industry was taking about one in 20.
“We believe that the current levels are conservative.” He estimated 95% of deepwater fishing is exported.
Asked about how the effects of bottom trawling were mitigated, Clement said for orange roughy it was a “very, very minor proportion, less than 1%” of the area that the fish live in that was trawled every year, and those were the same areas year-on-year.
Clement said he was “close to 100%” sure that roughy stocks would not be depleted as they were in the past for three reasons: firstly “that the science we used in the 1980s and 1990s” set the quotas to levels that were too high: 40,000 to 50,000 tons set by the government, which was not sustainable.
With better scientific methods to count and measure age and growth, and more conservative quotas, Clement said he was “very confident that what we are doing now is sustainable”.
“It’s something that we should treasure and make sure that our grandchildren can still make the equivalent of $300 million a year
“Conservation is giving the next generation the same choices that we have, and that’s what we intend to do with the orange roughy fishery.”
Niwa chief scientist – fisheries Dr Richard O’Driscoll said there were multiple stocks of orange roughy which were managed around New Zealand, and information for each of those stock units varied.
O’Driscoll said orange roughy matured in their 30s and could live well over 100 years old.
The oldest orange roughy that Niwa had aged was in excess of 200 years old.
However, O’Driscoll said there was a lot of misinformation around sustainability of fisheries – the longevity of the fish didn’t mean that it couldn’t be fished. Rather, “you have to take into account those life history parameters when you’re looking at the risk of fishing, and also the stock status”.
That might mean that you “exploit it at a lower rate” or differently than you would something that is faster growing or shorter lived.
“We have sufficient information to allow the management to occur.”
O’Driscoll said the Marine Stewardship Council didn’t just look at the impact on the target species or orange roughy in this case, but also on the non target species that are caught, be those other fish or corals.
Greenpeace have launched a new video on bottom trawling on seamounts, starring presenter Mandy Kupenga who fronted Māori TV’s Get Your Fish On.