07, Feb, 2012

Quota Management System no guarantee of sustainability : Consumers should use industry-independent guides

Category: ECO Inc

Media Release – Tuesday 7 February 2012 – Wellington


Quota Management System no guarantee of sustainability : Consumers should use industry-independent guides

The New Zealand quota management system is no guarantee of sustainability and consumers should look for industry independent guides the Environment and Conservation Organisations said today.

The fishing industry assertion that because fisheries are managed under the Quota Management System consumers need not worry about whether they are ecologically unsustainable are incorrect says Cath Wallace, an environmental economist, and co-chair of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO.

“There is a common and carefully cultivated misconception that the NZ Quota Management System delivers superb fisheries management, but this is not true”, says Cath Wallace.  “Consumers should pay attention to non-industry sources of information about which fish to avoid and which are ok to eat.”

“Too often, the catch limits set by the Minister of Fisheries follow down a fish stock as it plummets, rather than preventing the fall.  Recent examples include orange roughy stocks, bluenose and black cardinal fish.”

“The ecological impacts of fishing such as destruction of the living corals and other organisms on the sea floor and the deaths of sea lions, fur seals, and seabirds are not taken into account or are given only slight weight in decisions.”

“Fur seals are killed in the hundred in the hoki fishery and sea lions are caught in the squid fishery and charted to become extinct in 35 years.

Bottom trawling is indiscriminate in what it kills: everything attached to the sea floor in the path of the huge nets.

The fish stocks themselves too often have been driven to ecologically low levels and sometimes are at serious risk of collapse.  Significant economic losses attach in the long run to over-fishing, as well as the ecological disturbance of removing or disrupting predator prey relationships.

Every orange roughy stock – once the huge export dollar earner  as these fish were “mined” out for short run profits – is now less than 20% of the original fish stock size.  This means we have lost the natural capital that underpins jobs and on-going prosperity.

The Challenger and Puysegur orange roughy stocks were estimated to be down at 3% and 6% of the original fish stock size: and yet the Minister of Fisheries has allowed fishing to start again in these fisheries before they have recovered.

“The Quota system has allowed a huge asset strip of the New Zealand fish stocks because of relentless industry influence and no public processes, says Wallace.

“Bluenose is another fish that is long lived at about 60 years old, though orange roughy live to about 120 years.  They are slow growing and any recovery of the stock will take a long time.  Blue nose stocks are down to about 15% of the original biomass.  They live on middle depth seamounts and are caught by long lines and trawl nets.

“Black cardinal fish are another long lived (100+ years) deep water species and these are down to about 13% of the original biomass.

“There is talk of a recovery of the hoki fish stocks but the response has been a high risk strategy of treating these as definitely recovered and an increase in the fish catch allowed.  This is risky and takes no account of the collateral damage to fur seals, sea birds and the sea floor dwelling species damaged by trawling.

“The happy fiction that the Quota Management System is a guarantee of sustainability is far from the truth” says Cath Wallace.  “Consumers should take note of Forest and Birds’ guidance on which fish to eat and which to avoid.”


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For further information contact ECO here


1.      ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 55 groups with a concern for the environment.

2.      The latest assessment by the Ministry for the Environment reported a worsening trend on the state of New Zealand fisheries – “in 2010, 31% of assessed fish stocks were overfished, compared with 15% in 2007.”

State of NZ fisheries

(p35, Brief to the Incoming Minister, Ministry for the Environment).

3.      Examples of overfished fish stocks from the current Ministry of Fisheries Plenary Reports 2011 include:

  • Bluenose – “Horn et al. (2010) estimated a maximum age of 76 years, approximately twice the previous maximum age estimate.”  “Biomass is estimated to have declined continuously since the 1980s and has been below the default target biomass [40% of initial unfished biomass Bo] since around 2000. Very Unlikely (< 10%) to be at or above the default Target (MPD range B2011 = 14-27% B0)”
  • Snapper West Coast North Island (SNA8) – “The 2005 stock assessment indicated that current biomass (start of year 2004-05) was between 8% and 12% B0.”

Challenger (SNA7) –  “Lack of older age classes [8+ years] implies that the available stock biomass should be strongly affected by recruitment variability.” “There is no evidence of a rebuild as suggested by the 2000-01 stock assessment.”

Hauraki Gulf-Bay of Plenty – “The projections from the 2000 stock assessment model from 2010 to 2015 should be treated cautiously as recent trends in CPUE have not increased at the rate predicted by the model.”

  • Orange roughyNorth-West Chatham Rise – “The Alldata run suggested that B2006 was approximately 11% B0, and the Nobiomass run slightly lower (9% B0).”

East and South Chatham Rise – “B2010 was estimated to be 7-18% B0 depending on assumptions.”  “B2010 is Very Likely (> 90%) to be below the Soft Limit [20%Bo]; B2010 is About as Likely as Not (40-60%) to be below the Hard Limit [10%Bo].”

Challenger orange roughy – “Biomass declined steeply through the 1980s and did not appear to have increased by 2000 when the fishery was closed. Survey results from 2009 suggest that biomass has increased since the closure.”

West Coast – “The fishery was closed from 1 October 2007 and stock size is expected to increase.”

East Coast North Island – “B2011 was Likely (> 60%) to be below the Soft Limit [20%Bo]

  • Black cardinalfish (East Coast and Chatham Rise) – “B2009 was estimated to be 12% B0; Likely (> 60%) to be below the Soft Limit [20%Bo]  and About as Likely as Not (40-60%) to be below the Hard Limit [10%Bo].” (p76)

4.      Several quota management species are actually groups of 2 or more species which are managed as one with just one gazetted commercial catch limit.  Examples include: jack mackerel (3 species); flatfish (8 species); deepwater oreos (3 species); Hapuku/Bass (2 species); and Arrow squid (2 species).  Commentary in the lastest Ministry of Fisheries Plenary report (2011) includes:

The three species of oreos (black oreo, smooth oreo,  spiky oreo, and warty oreo) are managed as if they were one stock. Each species could be managed separately. They have different depth and geographical distributions, different stock sizes, rates of growth, and productivity.

5.      Orange roughy export values was worth $42 million in 2010-11 which is under a quarter of the exports in 1995 of $170m.

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