10, Jun, 2004

Orange Roughy Stock not Sustainable - Minister and Industry wrong

Category: ECO Inc

Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ Inc,

Media Release – for Thursday 10 June 2004 - Wellington

Official Figures show Orange Roughy Fishing not Sustainable – Minister of Fisheries Wrong on Several Counts Environmental Economist,

Claims by Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope and Orange Roughy Management Company chief executive, George Clements that the New Zealand orange roughy fishery is sustainable are incorrect according to senior lecturer in economics and public policy, Cath Wallace who also chairs the Environment and Conservation Organisations, ECO.

“It is time the public knew the figures and did not have to rely on the false assurances of the fishing industry and the Minister who clearly has been wrongly advised.

“Officially accepted figures for the orange roughy stocks in 2003 were presented to the December 2003 Deep Sea conference by Malcolm Clark of the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere. The graphs show rapid declines of fish stocks. There is no way that the orange roughy fishing is sustainable. That was accepted by the international conference.

The official figures for 2003 show that of eleven fish stocks, seven are at levels of serious overfishing, two, the stocks are unknown and only two are at or above the legal minimum of 30% of unfished levels, and even then there is some doubt**. Two are closed because of severe overfishing. The Challenger Plateau stock was not closed until it reached a pitiful 3% of the original stock. The Puysegur stock was closed at 7% of unfished levels. The rest are at serious risk of collapse, in the region of 10-25% of the original biomass. The legal target is for a level “at or above” 30% of unfished stocks.

The overfishing has been allowed for years despite the warnings of scientists and the protests of environmental organisations.
Minister of Fisheries David Benson-Pope is wrong to claim that protests by Greenpeace at the impacts of trawling are the first time the issue has been raised. For many years environmental organisations have drawn attention to the damage done by trawling and have asked without success for official action.

In 2000 the national alliance of environmental organisations, ECO and Forest and Bird asked that the need for an environmental impact assessment of trawling be placed on the agenda for the Ministry of Fisheries’ “sustainability round” annual decision making. 
The environmental organisations were refused the chance to even discuss it since the Ministry and Minister both refused to allow the meeting to discuss trawling impacts. In 2003 ECO passed a motion formally asking the government to close fishing grounds to trawling because of the damage that it does.

Some research was eventually commissioned and it shows damage – NIWA is doing the research.

The damage to fish stocks represents a massive loss of natural capital – but it is only part of the loss. The loss is compounded by the enormous damage done to the unique communities of corals, hydroids and other animals on seamounts where the orange roughy live. This amounts to the loss of habitat and the loss of the economic and ecological future of the environment.

Pete Hodgson, the previous Minister of Fisheries did close to fishing 19 seamounts in response to concerns about orange roughy fishing impacts – but this is less than 2.5% of the total seamount area .

The Minister, media and the public should examine the facts of the fish stocks and the damage and not be mislead by the claims of the Orange Roughy Management Company, says Wallace.

**The corresponding figures are: 
Fish Stock 2003 fish stock as % of unfished fish stock Challenger 3% - fishery closed. Puysegur 7% Mercury-Colville Box 10-15% East Cape 25% East Coast Nth Island 11% NW Chathams 21-44% NE Chathams 34-54% South Rise 24% Southern Areas Unknown West Coast Sth Island 12% Orange Roughy 1 Unknown