Fish stocks confirmed to be in good shape

Published: 6 May 2021

The latest Status of our Fish Stocks, as assessed annually by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), shows New Zealand’s sustainability credentials are holding up globally.

Some 91 percent of all assessed commercial catch has no sustainability issues according to the latest science. And what that means, is the other nine percent is actively being rebuilt through catch limit reductions or closures, as they were found to be below an acceptable level.

This is the Quota Management System (QMS) in action. Science-led stock assessment followed by action to rectify any depletions in a stock. Sometimes these rebuilds are imposed but mostly they are either led or supported by industry.

Some 150 separate fish stocks have been included in MPI’s scientific evaluation this year. Those stocks account for most of the main commercial fish species and represent 68 percent of all landings by weight and 85 percent of all landings by value.

There are stocks that remain unassessed; however, these are a small part of the commercial catch and the millions spent by industry and government on science is rightly targeted at the species making up the majority.

It is globally recognised that the fish stocks in countries with a robust and transparent fisheries management regime will always be in better health. Without monitoring and without action, fisheries do collapse.

The United Nations, in their Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) annual report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, unequivocally report that; “the solution for fisheries sustainability around the world is clear; implement effective fisheries management.”

The 2020 report says that it is mostly developed countries that manage their fisheries and that means global fisheries sustainability has not improved evenly. Developing countries are facing a worsening situation when compared to regions that intensively manage their fisheries. With less strict fisheries management, they are catching three times more fish and their stocks have half the abundance of assessed stocks in managed countries.

What is often lost in the argument to either shut down more fishing grounds through no-take marine protected areas or moves to encourage people not to eat fish, is that seafood, when managed well, is one of the most healthy and regenerative proteins in the world – and one with a small impact on the environment.

Most food production affects the planet but with a global population nearing eight billion and hunger and malnutrition still an issue, clean sources of protein will be ever more crucial.

Ensuring seafood is from sustainable sources in both developing and developed countries must surely be a priority.

Despite what you hear, New Zealand is doing pretty well.