NZ fisheries have caught 24.1 million more fish than they reported

A collaborative study has discovered that New Zealand fishery catches are 2.7 times more than previously reported.

The study was conducted by Glenn Simmons from Auckland University, alongside various researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of British Columbia as well as collaborations from various government scientists across the globe. It is part of an wide scale international collaboration between 400 researchers that sought to fill the gaps left by official catch data.

A press release from the University of Auckland outlined that the disparity was largely due to unreported commercial catches and discarded fish.

It goes on to say that “fish of little or no perceived economic value have been routinely dumped at sea and not reported. By catch  —fish caught along with the target species— is common and unavoidable. They’re routinely dumped if unmarketable, under the minimum legal size, or if the fisher has no quota.”

Between 1950 and 2013, New Zealand’s marine catch was reportedly just 14 million tonnes as opposed to the correct figure of 38.1 million, which is almost three times higher.

University of Otago marine scientist Professor Stephen Dawson has since spoken on the issue, stating: “Blaming the fishermen is not the answer. The dumping and hi-grading problems arise because the Quota Management System provides incentives to do so. With quota so limited and valuable, there’s a strong temptation to dump fish that are undersized or damaged or the wrong species, so that fishers can maximise their return from a limited quantity of fish.”

 “An excellent start would be to initiate a robust scholarly review of the Quota Management System”, he concluded.

Rino Tirikatene, Labour Fisheries Spokesperson, has reiterated its call for an independent inquiry into New Zealand’s fishing industry. Tirikatene stated that “Fisheries officers come down hard on recreational fishers who are one or two fish over the catch limit, but MPI is turning a blind eye when commercial boats dump hundreds —maybe even thousands— of fish overboard. There’s one standard for the little guy and another standard for the big boats.”

On top of the headline statistic, 42 percent of the industrial catch was caught by foreign-flagged vessels, which dominated the catching of hoki, squid, jack mackerels, barracoota and southern blue whiting —which are some of the most misreported and discarded species. 

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2016.
Posted 10:36am Sunday 22nd May 2016 by Joe Higham.