23, Aug, 2005

Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing Welcomed

Category: ECO Inc

Damaging effects of fishing should come into focus at last, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand, ECO, as it welcomed the release today by the Minister of Fisheries, Hon David Benson-Pope of the long-awaited Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing.

“The Strategy suggests that at last the Ministry of Fisheries may begin to think how to implement the environmental requirements of the Fisheries Act 1996, says Cath Wallace, Co-chair of ECO. “It has been a long wait. We are glad it has finally arrived after many promises: the Act was passed in 1996 and the Strategy process began in 2001.

“The Strategy promises the development of standards – so a key issue will be the quality of those standards. It remains to be seen how good they are. There are principles for Environmental Standards in the document but not the standards themselves. It will be critical that these standards are strong and strongly enforced.

“ECO will be watching closely to see that there is not a failure of political and official will to ensure that standards are implemented and enforced. The Ministry has not enforced the legal minimum for fish stocks, but has allowed a continued decline in many stocks while fishing continues. Some orange roughy stocks have dropped way below the agreed limit (30% of the original biomass) and lower still to well below the risky benchmark of 20% of the original biomass. Some have dived to below 10%, even as low as 3% and 7% of the original biomass.

“The Strategy provides for consideration of combined effects of different fisheries: we want to see highly destructive fishing methods such as bottom trawling subject to environmental assessment and control. In several fisheries, the gross overfishing is being compounded by the destructive fishing methods.

“The Strategy acknowledges the need to manage the environmental effects of fishing at various ecological scales – that too is very welcome.

“There is a welcome hint* that the government envisages that fisheries management and research will not be devolved to the fishing industry: we call on all political parties to state where they stand on this issue.

ECO also calls on political parties to state whether they will require the Ministry to maintain fish stocks, as required by the Fisheries Act, “at or above” the stock that gives the maximum sustainable yield”. ENDS

* “It is envisaged that, over time, the process of managing fisheries to achieve environmental standards will occur primarily through fisheries plans prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries in consultation with tangata whenua and stakeholders” (section 2.3.2, p8).

For further information contact Cath Wallace 021-891-994, 463-5713, but unavailable 2.30-3.30pm, Wednesday.