Twice as many fish caught as industry claimed

The Green Party is calling for more government observers on commercial fishing vessels and at ports following the release of an international study showing major under-reporting of commercial fish catches in New Zealand waters.

“The Government can’t claim that our fisheries management is sustainable when it clearly has no idea how many fish are being taken,” said Green Party primary industries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

A new report by the University of British Columbia, with research from the University of Auckland, shows more than twice the number of marine fish have been caught in New Zealand waters between 1950 and 2010 than Government and industry statistics suggest.

The study says fish are being caught and then dumped at sea because they’re under or over-sized, have low market value, or simply because the fishing vessel doesn't have enough space in the hold. It says there has been “deliberate, widespread and systematic under-reporting of commercial catch”.

“The Quota Management System is supposed to help protect fishing stocks, but this report shows aspects of it are encouraging the industry to dump enormous numbers of fish at sea,” said Ms Sage.

“When there are only three fisheries management staff located at ports across the whole of the South Island it’s not surprising that industry are reporting less than half of the fish they catch.  

“Industry and Government reporting of fish catches is wildly divorced from reality and there is clearly a desperate need for comprehensive oversight of the fishing industry.

“The Government needs to give significantly more resource to enforcement, and it also needs to have a serious rethink aspects of the Quota Management System, which are clearly encouraging the dumping of fish at sea and under-reporting of enormous numbers of fish caught.

“We want a fisheries management system which protects our fish stocks for the long term,” said Ms Sage.

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