Govt needs to restore confidence in fisheries management

New Zealand needs to halt the substantial under-reporting of commercial fish catches and dumping that a new report suggests is widespread in the fishing industry, the Green Party said today.

“Systematic under-reporting of commercial catches undermines the credibility of the Quota Management System (QMS) and the fisheries data used to set the Total Allowable Catch.  It means there is a big question mark over whether current catch limits and fisheries management are sustainable,” said Green Party fisheries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

The comments come on the back of a report by the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia, which shows that New Zealand’s Quota Management System has been abused, potentially putting fish stocks at risk.

The report estimates that the actual fisheries catch in New Zealand waters since 1986  has been more than double that reported to Government and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. It says this is largely due to “deliberate, widespread and systematic under-reporting of commercial catch”.

“The Quota Management System relies on accurate reporting of catches to assess the size of fisheries stocks. Under-reporting commercial catches risks stocks being over-fished,” Ms Sage said.

“The National Government needs to be much more ambitious in its review of the Fisheries Act and close the loopholes that are allowing systemic under-reporting and dumping of what are regarded as low value species. It must ensure that our fisheries data is accurate and reliable.

“Commercial over-fishing has implications for recreational fishers, potentially reducing their allowable catch.

“The Minister for Primary Industries should step up to restore the credibility of the QMS. Ending the secrecy around catch effort data, video monitoring of catches, extending observer coverage, having more MPI staff in ports where commercial fisheries are landed, particularly in the South Island, and MPI communicating better with fishers are all measures that would help protect our seafood industry and our oceans,” she said.

“Our fisheries and our marine ecosystems are too important to allow under-reporting and dumping, and potential over-fishing to continue,” said Ms Sage. 

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