There is much noise about the state of the tarakihi fishery at the moment.

And that is to be expected, as Fisheries New Zealand says the stock has fallen below the soft limit of 20 percent and estimates it is depleted to around 17 percent.

The Review of Sustainability Measures paper proposes that on 1 October the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for East Coast North Island and East Coast South Island tarakihi be reduced drastically. Three proposals of various severity have been put up. All of which will have an impact on livelihoods.

So how did we get here?

Most of New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are in good shape. Other changes in the sustainability round recommend an increased TACC for eleven species which are showing signs of growing abundance while only three, including tarakihi, have fallen below the soft limit and will face cuts.

Fisheries New Zealand use scientific assessments to calculate the health of a fishery. Those assessments show that some 96.4 percent of fish of known status come from stocks where sustainability is not a concern.

Until late last year there was no concern about tarakihi; the fishery has been relatively stable for decades. However, after the first comprehensive assessment of tarakihi was carried out, the science indicated that stocks could have been below optimal levels since the 1970s and depleted, below 20 percent, since the early 2000s.

Clearly we need more science, however science is expensive. The commercial fishing industry pays around $30 million in levies to the government each year to cover a number of MPI services, including compliance, observers on vessels, and research. Of that $30 million, roughly a third goes to research which includes specific research projects and stock assessments, therefore the amount on stock assessments will vary depending on how much other research is being undertaken.

It is in both the government and industry’s best interests that we operate on the best science available.

Some believe the government needs to adopt a more pragmatic approach. Less expensive monitoring and more frequent management form part of the answer. Others believe Fisheries New Zealand need to examine closely its priorities and most importantly its research funding model.

Whatever the answer, what should not be lost in the noise around tarakihi is that when we identify issues, we respond. Action will be taken promptly to rebuild this fishery, most other stocks are healthy and in some the abundance is so significant the TACC is being raised substantially.

This is the Quota Management System at work. When the science is applied and the assessments are made, our fisheries will remain in the best of health.

Increases in TACC are proposed for; Southern blue fin tuna (all of New Zealand), East coast South Island kingfish, East coast South Island elephant fish, East coast South Island red gurnard, East coast South Island scampi, Chatham Rise orange roughy, Chatham Rise oreo, West coast South Island john dory, West coast South Island rig, Southern ling, and Stewart Island p?ua.

Decreases are proposed for; Northern North Island flatfish, Northern North Island John Dory and East coast North Island and South Island tarakihi. The Kaipara Harbour scallop fishery is facing closure.