The blue tick of approval for our deep sea fishing industry
Sustainable fish stocks are crucial for New Zealand. When fish stocks are exploited beyond sustainable limits, they can take decades to recover, affecting ecosystems and endangering livelihoods and communities. Fish prices can also skyrocket as supply dwindles, even putting our national dish of fish and chips at risk.
Globally, much remains to be done to combat overfishing. According to the 2022 report on the state of world fisheries and aquaculture by the United Nations FAO, more than a third of the world’s fish stocks have been fished beyond sustainable limits.
Sealord in-house scientist Charles Heaphy says that while this is not the trend in New Zealand, it is important to understand the ocean and its changes which affect fish productivity and abundance.
“We want to bring fish to the deck in good condition, we want them to be the right species, the right size and we want to raise them with minimal impact on the environment. A big part of my role is to work on innovations so that we fish better.We also study the impact of fishing on the seabed and on all protected species, including birds and seals.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s chief scientific adviser, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, said the government was also looking to improve an already strong regulatory environment.
“Aotearoa has a generally well-respected fisheries management system from which further steps towards sustainability can undoubtedly be taken, and much of which the government is beginning to research and implement,” she says.
A report published by Gerrard last year called for evidence-based action to ensure the long-term health of New Zealand’s ocean ecosystems.
“We were delighted to see a detailed government response to our specific recommendations last month, with the government having already started working on some of the recommendations,” she says.
Gerrard says the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fishing standard also has an important role to play in changing consumer habits.
The standard is a global certification to highlight sustainable and environmentally friendly fishing, promoting greater sustainability. It reflects the latest, internationally accepted fisheries science and management, with the MSC reviewing the scientific relevance of the standard with scientists, the seafood industry and conservation groups. Each fishery is independently assessed on sustainable fish stocks, efforts to minimize environmental impacts and effective fisheries management.
One in two fish caught in New Zealand waters is certified as sustainable according to the MSC Fisheries standard. These fish are caught using a variety of methods including longline, pelagic trawling, and bottom trawling.
Aaron Irving, Deputy Managing Director of Deepwater Group, said deep-sea fishing in New Zealand adheres to strict environmental principles and carefully manages fishing in our fishing grounds.
“Just like on land, where we manage national parks, including those around large mountains, such as Mount Ruapehu and Mount Taranaki, the seafood industry recognizes the need to maintain New Zealand’s biodiversity. , including seamounts, by setting aside and protecting large marine areas,” says Irving.
“Eighty-five percent* of seamounts in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have never been trawled. 2006 – an area four and a half times larger than the entire landmass of New Zealand.”
“There are few countries in the world that can demonstrate effective, inclusive, transparent, science-based and sustainable fisheries management and aquatic environment management to the extent that New Zealand can,” he said. “It’s the Kiwi way. When we see a problem, we work together to create solutions to solve it. The changes we’ve made to the way we fish, especially in recent years, have had dramatic positive results, demonstrated in part by MSC fisheries certification.
“The orange roughy is a good example. Our orange roughy fisheries were recertified sustainable for the second time last month, meeting very high MSC standards. Our orange roughy fisheries join our hoki, hake, ling and blue whiting fisheries being among the top 5% best managed fisheries in the world,” says Irving.
MSC program director Anne Gabriel believes that sustainable fishing practices will benefit Aotearoa New Zealand now and in the future.
“Sustainable seafood means that it has been fished to a level where it will be present in the future. All food systems must be managed responsibly and sustainably, whether on land or at sea. When we shopping or dining out, we all have the power to make a difference to the health of our oceans simply by asking questions about where seafood comes from or looking for a label like the MSC blue tick. By securing the long-term supply of fish stocks, we are able to ensure that seafood remains an affordable option long into the future.”
The MSC also helps empower students through its ocean literacy program, Te Kawa O Tangaroa, which contains free curriculum-aligned resources for teachers. This program designed by teachers, was launched last year with the support of the Prime Minister.
For more information on sustainable fishing and ocean literacy, visit the Marine Stewardship Council
*Source – NIWA 2022