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MPI stands behind fish stock methods

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/06/2017

A study claims that New Zealand has a "world leading" system for sustainably managing fishing are untrue, but the ministry in charge disagrees.

The study was published this week in the US-based National Academy of Sciences journal and critiques claims by the Ministry of Primary Industries and the fishing industry about the excellence of the Quota Management System (QMS), claiming they "simply do not match the facts".

"Critical gaps in fisheries data and problems with the way catch and effort data is collected mean there is a 'lack of scientific data available to run the QMS'," the authors write.

But MPI stand by its methods and say all of New Zealand's major commercial fisheries have full stock assessments.

"These assessments are all independently reviewed in a transparent and open process. To make sure our assessment methods are robust, we periodically get the world's best fisheries scientists to review our approach."

In the same journal, University of Washington scientists said that the QMS is a success, but the paper rejects the claim as an "untrustworthy" industry-based opinion survey focused only on high value, high volume species.

Data showed management of most fish species relied entirely on information provided by the fishing industry, they said .

"Many of these fisheries are doing very poorly and causing serious environmental impacts. New Zealand is failing miserably at looking after the majority of our fish stocks for the public," University of Auckland Business School researcher Glenn Simmons says.

However, MPI says where stock status is uncertain, it's deliberately cautious in the advice it provides the Minister on setting catch limits.

The authors said the majority of fishing quotas had being bought by a small number of companies and wealthy individuals, which was bad for small-scale fishers, managing fish populations and protecting the marine environment.

The authors are calling for "ecosystem-based" and cultural objectives to be valued, along with maintaining fish populations.

"New Zealand now needs to focus on how to provide truly sustainable fisheries management, maximising long-term profits and minimising environmental impacts," Dr Simmons said.

Last year, a study by Dr Simmons said widespread illegal dumping and misreporting distorted catch statistics for decades, but MPI disputed the study's methodology.

MPI are implementing a programme called the Future of our Fisheries which will aim ''to strengthen our fisheries management system to ensure the sustainable economic, social and cultural value of New Zealand's fisheries."

STUDY CLAIMS:

* Management of most New Zealand fish species relies entirely on information provided by the fishing industry

* Three-quarters of fish stocks have no formal stock assessment

* Funding for stock assessment is about 45 per cent of levels in the early 1990s but the number of QMS stocks has increased 3.5 times in that period

* Data on ecological impacts are inadequate for most fisheries, with observers on only 8.4 per cent of fishing boats

* Widespread illegal dumping and misreporting have distorted catch statistics for decades

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