NEW ZEALAND - New Zealand’s marine fishing catch could be much higher than reported.
According to a new report from the University of Auckland and presented to the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia the catch statistics that have been taken since 1950 are incomplete and inaccurate.
The paper “Reconstruction of marine fisheries catches for New Zealand (1950-2010)” by Glenn Simmons from the University of Auckland and the New Zealand Asia Institute says the figures ignore significant amounts of ‘invisible’ unreported landings in industrial fisheries, of fish that are discarded at sea and of fish taken by recreational and customary fishers.
The report says that New Zealand’s reconstructed catch was a total of 38.1 million tonnes over the 61-year period, which indicated the actual catch was about 2.7 times the 14 million tonnes reported to the FAO on behalf of New Zealand for the same time period.
The study is part of a wider New Zealand research project aimed at informing seafood industry efforts to become as economically and environmentally sustainable as possible.
The report has brought calls for an investigation into New Zealand’s quota management system from the former Green Party leader and member of Greenpeace New Zealand, Russel Norman.
However, the research and findings are reported to have been greeted with scepticism by the New Zealand prime minister John Key, who has questioned the validity and accuracy of the figures.
New Zealand introduced a Quota Management System in 1986, to ensure fisheries resource sustainability and improved reporting.
The report says that the total catch since then is conservatively estimated to be 2.1 times greater than that reported to the FAO.
It adds: “Unreported industrial catch and discards account for the vast majority of the discrepancy.
“Recreational and customary catch was 0.51 million tonnes for the same period.
“From 1960 until 2010, 43 per cent of all commercial catch was caught by foreign flagged vessels, which dominated the catching of hoki, squid, jack mackerels, barracouta and southern blue whiting.
“These five species comprised 53 per cent of reported landings from 1950-2010.
“These were also some of the most misreported and discarded species over the time period considered.
“Some estimates of unreported catches and discards are included in governmental stock assessment reports, but the lack of comprehensive and transparent reporting threatens the integrity of the QMS.
“Improving the transparency and reliability of fisheries data reporting is essential for fisheries management and sustainability.
“The future sustainability and certification of fisheries will depend on how the government addresses the under-reporting problems, which have long been a cause of concern.”
Russel Norman said: “It's damning stuff and we're calling for an independent investigation.
“Unsurprisingly, both MPI and industry spin doctors have responded with vague attacks on the methods used in the report and its use of interviews with fishers as a means for scientific inquiry.”
Aotearoa Fisheries in New Zealand said that it did not believe Glenn Simmons’ research paints an accurate picture of fish stocks because it is based on old data and is not reflective of the current Quota Management System.
The Maori fisheries said: “We’re always looking at ways we can improve what we do to ensure overall sustainability of commercial fishing under the Quota Management System.
“In terms of alleged fish dumping, we make it perfectly clear to our fishers that it is not acceptable, and we also make sure they have sufficient quota to land what they catch, ensuring there’s no need for dumping.”
You can view the full report by clicking here.