Concern has been expressed about the sustainable management of New Zealand orange roughy fisheries, much of which has been ill-informed.  TACCs have been progressively reduced by managers and quota owners to align harvest levels with emerging scientific information.  However, for the most part this information has been uncertain due to the technical and scientific challenges in estimating stock size and to the lack of a robust stock assessment model.  In 2008 quota owners contracted Moody Marine to undertake pre-assessments of all New Zealand deepwater species and in 2009 a detailed pre-assessment of selected orange roughy fisheries against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Based on these pre-assessments, Deepwater Group Limited (DWG, representing the owners of orange roughy quota) and the Ministry of Fisheries (now the Ministry for Primary Industries, MPI) implemented a programme to improve the science and management of orange roughy fisheries with the objective of aligning management performance with the MSC Fisheries Standard.  The key objectives were to improve biomass estimation, to improve stock assessments, to document agreed harvest strategies, and to better assess and document environmental impacts.

In 2013 quota owners sought a direct time-bound path towards MSC certification and it was decided to implement a staged Fisheries Improvement Project with four public Fisheries Improvement Plans to formally  progress four orange roughy (ORH) fisheries towards MSC certification: ORH3B East & South Chatham Rise (ORH3B ESCR), ORH3B Northwest Chatham Rise (ORH3B NWCR), ORH Mid-East Coast (ORH MEC), and ORH7A.

In the development of the orange roughy Fishery Improvement Projects, careful consideration was given to a number of FIP options. Most of the FIP options available were aimed at fisheries in developing states that required external competence and funding in order to meet market requirements (which includes being by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)). These FIP options are not so well aligned with the orange roughy fisheries which are managed as a component of the New Zealand quota management system (QMS) by the New Zealand Government and the Seafood Industry in a partnership arrangement.

Given that the primary purpose of the orange roughy Fisheries Improvement Projects is to meet or exceed the SG80 MSC Certification Requirements and be certified sustainable by the MSC by, the decision was made to use the FIP templates and tools that were developed by MSC for the orange roughy FIPs. These MSC FIP templates and tools (which include the MSC Fisheries Improvements Action Plan Template and the MSC Benchmarking and Tracking (BMT) Tool) not only provide the client fisheries with the flexibility to implement improvements that align with in situ fisheries management systems like the QMS; tools like the BMT provide client fisheries with the ability to benchmark a fishery’s improvements, track progress and demonstrate conformance with the MSC Certification requirements.


This Fisheries Improvement Project comprises five stages for each of the four fisheries:–

  • Stage 1Preparation – Continue with the remedial work in preparation for a further MSC Pre-assessment against the current MSC Fisheries Standard.  This includes work programmes to improve scientific and technical information for P1 and P2, undertaking a formal risk  assessment of the environmental effects of ORH fishing against the P2 Standards and documenting performance in P3;
  • Stage 2MSC Pre-Assessment – Contract MRAG-Americas to undertake four MSC pre-assessments against the current MSC Fisheries Standard;
  • Stage 3Fishery Improvement Analysis and Planning - Consider the pre-assessment results, determine what additional information is required, and implement of a formal Fisheries Improvement Plan (FIP);
  • Stage 4: Full MSC Assessment – Contract full assessments of each fishery against the MSC Fisheries Standard.
  • Stage 5: MSC Certification - The fisheries achieve MSC Certification.