The New Zealand fishing industry was commended for its sustainable approach on World Fisheries Day this week.
Sydney-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Oceania programme director Anne Gabriel said New Zealand had a good news story in its achievement of third-party certification for the bulk of its deepwater fisheries.
About 12 percent of the world’s total catch across 400 fisheries is now MSC certified, which encompasses stock size, environmental protection and management policies.
Seven New Zealand fisheries – hoki, hake, ling, southern blue whiting, orange roughy and albacore and skipjack tuna – now have the coveted MSC stamp.
“Human life and the oceans are so interconnected,” Gabriel said, “filled with diversity and divine beauty.”
She was a panellist at a lively function at the Sustainable Coastlines centre in the Wynyard Quarter on the Auckland waterfront.
Iwi Partnership general manager Maru Samuels, representing the fishing interests of 15 iwi; wildlife photographer Tamzin Henderson; film maker Graeme Sinclair; and Sanford corporate communications general manager Fiona McMillan completed the panel.
Graeme Sinclair, fresh from a day’s successful snapper fishing on the Hauraki Gulf, said he had been among at least 100 boats attracted by diving gannets and dolphins that were feeding on schools of bait fish.
He was using newly developed micro-jig lures that were lethal on snapper and was guided by sophisticated electronics that allowed identification of different fish species.
On another recent day he had counted as many as 400 recreational boats.
“What is the impact?”, he asked.
“Is it sustainable? We just don’t know. Until we measure that we won’t make much progress.”
He said the snapper fishery in Nelson had rebounded but every second person was now laying a longline of 25 hooks.
That was fine if the fishery could sustain it but was something that should be looked at if there were to be a decline.
People needed to give, rather than take. “It’s called compromise.”
He began the Gone Fishin’ programme nearly 25 years ago to cater for the 914,000 Kiwis at that time who went fishing at least once a year, a quarter of whom were women.
Tamzin Henderson spoke of her delight at approaching Sealord and asking if she could go out on the Cook Strait hoki trawler Otakou to photograph seabirds and being given approval.
A fishing and boating store co-owner in Blenheim, she admitted to a negative view of trawling but her opinion had been altered by what she had seen.
She was impressed no restrictions were imposed, other than for her own safety.
Bird bycatch mitigation devices were so extensive that “if anyone ever caught a bird it would be horrific bad luck”.
The resulting images of magnificent albatrosses can be seen on her blog, titled The Photographic Wanderings of Tamzin S Henderson.
Fiona McMillan spoke of the immense effort that went into production of the company’s extensive annual report delivered last week, including 18-hour days by general manager of sustainability Lisa Martin.
The cover features Ross Sea toothfish skipper John Bennett’s four-year-old granddaughter Charli, which he captioned: A future marine biologist or commercial fisher.
Audience member Karen Gibson, an account manager at Zomato, a worldwide restaurant registry, asked why MSC-certified hoki was not endorsed by Forest & Bird in its “best fish guide”.
The response, supplied by this writer, was that the rating was spurious, driven by ideology rather than science.
Panellists were asked to sum up with one suggestion to improve New Zealand fisheries.
Share the load, was Maru Samuels’ response.
He said there were lots of other seafood options such as monkfish and trevally, rather than always opting for “flash fish like snapper”.
Eat more mussels was Fiona McMillan’s similar response.
Graeme Sinclair’s recipe was watch Gone Fishin’ and Ocean Bounty for insights into sustainable fishing.
Look out for the MSC ecolabel, Anne Gabriel advised.
Do your own research and look at what you’re putting back into the ocean, Tamzin Henderson said.