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Protecting our seas, sustainably harvesting fish

Posted

August 06, 2022

By Kim Newth - Business South Magazine

With every passing year, Aotearoa New Zealand is getting better and better at balancing the twin goals of protecting the health of our oceans while providing people with quality seafood that is packed full of natural goodness. That’s according to Doug Loder, President of the NZ Federation of Commercial Fisherman, whose service for Talley’s and the industry spans more than 35 years.

Millions of dollars a year are invested by the fishing industry to support the Government’s extensive fisheries and oceans’ scientific research programme. Doug says industry leaders are pleased to support robust research because they appreciate how critical it is to properly understand the vast ocean environment and to maintain a sustainable commercial fishing industry.

As he describes it, New Zealand’s marine wilderness is home to more than 15,000 species – not just fish, but also marine mammals, seabirds and other animals, plants and algae. Our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and territorial sea are vast, being over four million square kilometres in extent.

“Aotearoa New Zealand takes the health and sustainability of our oceans seriously. The way we manage our bountiful fisheries is praised internationally, and independent global studies regularly place our country in the top rankings for fisheries management.”

At the same time, nine out of 10 New Zealanders buy seafood from supermarkets and other outlets every week, demonstrating what a love the nation has for our rich variety of tasty, healthy fish.

Bottom trawling is New Zealand’s most common fishing method because of plentiful inshore stocks in areas just above the seabed. Most of New Zealand’s domestic harvest – including flatfish, gurnard, red cod, snapper, terakihi, school shark, rig and blue warehou - is caught this way. Talley’s deepwater fleet also harvests hoki, orange roughy, oreo dory, squid and southern blue whiting by bottom trawling near or on the bottom of the seabed in defined, pre-fished areas.

Doug emphasises that bottom trawling practices are highly regulated. “Over the last three decades, the fishing grounds have significantly decreased too as we work with the Government to ensure fishing can live alongside sustainability efforts.”

Occurring within 0.3% of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation’s high seas and less than 5% of New Zealand’s EEZ and territorial sea, New Zealand bottom trawling is limited in extent. “Overall, 90% of New Zealand’s EEZ has never been bottom trawled and a third of our territorial waters are completely closed to bottom trawling…Our fishing is limited to wild fish species managed under the Quota Management System, with everything we catch reported and balanced against our quota.”

Doug observes that Talley’s is proud to support a new generation of New Zealand fishers, who are implementing continual improvements as they strive for sustainability excellence. Talley’s Fishing for Life ethos underlines these goals and drives investment in new technologies and tools to mitigate fishing’s impact on the marine environment.

View from the deck - cameras on vessels

A hot topic for the seafood industry currently is the Fisheries New Zealand (FNZ) proposal to place cameras on 300 inshore fishing vessels. Industry bodies are calling for FNZ to create and progressively implement a better strategy on cameras to achieve transparent improved fisheries management that is fit for the future.

Doug says Talley’s inshore fishers continue to innovate to support sustainable fishing goals. From the deck though, there is scepticism around the cameras on boats proposal.

Bluff fisher Pat Nyhon, for example, is concerned that the prospect of increased monitoring and regulation and the threat of heavy penalties will be too much for some. As the southern liaison officer for the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishmen and a FirstMate navigator, he has his finger on the pulse. In his experience, a punitive approach does not bring out the best in people.

On his own vessel, the FV Cressy, Pat has invested in all new electronics including sensors and net monitors, catch monitoring software, better nets and better gear, all aimed towards a sustainable catch. He also welcomes marine observers on board to collect more detailed data.

However, when it comes to the prospect of on-board cameras, Pat doubts they will add much value to what is already being reported and observed. “They’re not going to get the level of detail they think they will from the footage.”

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