Fishing QMS is reliable - minister

April 4, 2011 10:35

New Zealand's fishing quota management system works extremely well and it is disappointing to see some fish species listed as unsustainable by Forest & Bird and Greenpeace, Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley said, reports with reference to Nelson Mail.

Hoki and orange roughy, the first and fourth most valuable export finfish species, are listed on the Greenpeace "red list" and at the "to be avoided" end of the Forest & Bird Best Fish Guide. Both lists are designed to help consumers make sustainable choices when buying fish.

Mr Heatley said he found the guides "very, very disappointing".

"They're emotive, and they tend to be based on anecdotal evidence rather than science," he said.

" I think the strides we've made in the QMS, and the work that we're doing in science, underpins the research that I look at. Sadly, organisations like that refuse to acknowledge the gains we've made, and refuse to be encouraging."

The minister - who went fishing for blue cod in Queen Charlotte Sound yesterday to mark his re-opening of that fishery - said it was reassuring for the QMS to get world recognition, as it often did, "but the reality is we can always do better and it's really about targeting our science to fish stocks that matter, both in volume and I guess those under the most pressure, and also in areas that are under most pressure."

The Seafood Industry Council, which represents commercial interests, says on its website and in its publicity material that "there's no need to guess or ponder which New Zealand fish is sustainable".

"If you want to know which fish is `safe', then just check if it's New Zealand seafood," the council says.

Mr Heatley said that "generally speaking" this was "an absolutely fair claim to make, particularly in the last 5-10 years where we've made huge strides in the management of our large-scale and high-value export fisheries".

"When the pressure was on hoki we cut the catch rates very quickly and now the hoki fishery is improving we're able to slowly raise catch rates again. That just shows you the beauty of the system. But we can't take it for granted, you've got to keep on top of it and keep monitoring."

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