John Kerry's Ocean summit opened in Washington yesterday with leaders from about 80 countries in attendence. The conference is designed to elevate the issue of marine protection in three areas: sustainable fishing, action on marine pollution, and action on ocean acidification.
Coinciding with the conference President Obama expanded the central pacific marine sanctuary by excutive order; the plans will undergo a comment period before being finalized.
Professor Ray Hilborn, Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, one of they keynote speakers on sustainble fisheries, said we were at a global crossroads with overfishing and bycatch being major areas to address. However he stressed that this was a problem being successfully addressed in some countries. Professor Hilborn emphasised to the international delegates that the status of fish stocks round the world varied considerably, and the trend among developed countries over the past decade
was to successfully rebuild overfished stocks, such as in the North Atlantic, to maximum sustainable yield levels.
He also specifically identified “Alaska and New Zealand [who] have never really been subject to any significant overfishing pressure” in comparison to other parts of the world in recent years with modern fishery management tools.
Seafood New Zealand’s Executive Chairman George Clement says Professor Hilborn is recognised as a world authority on fisheries science management and his familiarity with the New Zealand Quota Management System (QMS) makes him well qualified to single out the success of New Zealand fisheries management.
George Clement says that despite what he calls the ill-informed domestic criticism of New Zealand’s fisheries, other countries are increasingly adopting fisheries management systems similar to New Zealand’s, which rely on scientific information to regularly adjust what are safe limits of quantities to fish.
“There is no fish stock in New Zealand which is under any real threat from commercial fishing. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has just this week issued a publication on the anniversary of 30 years of the Fishing Plenaries, which is used to assess the stocks and set the QMS levels, and reduce them if there is a concern.”
MPI states in the publication, “by far the majority of New Zealand’s fisheries are performing well. There is a small minority of fisheries which need to be managed better, but the trend is towards more and more of our stocks getting into the optimum volume for a sustainable fishery and a sustainable fish population.”
The publication identifies a more than three per cent increase in the number of stocks during the past year, reaching or above target sustainability levels, to 72.5 per cent. In the US, NOAA has also announced a steady increase in the number of US fisheries that are recovered and not subject to either overfishing, or to being in an overfished state.
George Clement says the preservation of the ocean itself is also a priority in New Zealand fisheries management.
“Since 2007, 1.1 million square kilometres of our Exclusive Economic Zone has been protected under a regime of Seabed Closures and Benthic Protected Areas, where it is illegal to trawl or dredge the ocean floor. This protection, which covers thirty per cent of our EEZ, comprises fifteen per cent of all the world’s Marine Protected Areas as recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.”
George Clement says New Zealand is also developing a practical and radical way of selective capture of fish through Precision Seafood Harvesting, which catches the fish alive and allows undersize and non-target species to escape alive and unharmed.
“It’s in the initial stages of commercialisation, but is just one of the ways in which we are maintaining our world leadership in New Zealand.”