New commercial fishing catch limits proposedFisheries and Aquaculture
Fisheries Minister Pete Hodgson has indicated his initial views on proposed changes to commercial fisheries catch limits this year, signalling potential reductions in catch levels for hoki, orange roughy, oreo and paua stocks, amongst others.
Mr Hodgson's views are preliminary and stakeholders have been requested to consider the proposed changes and provide submissions next month. The Minister's final decisions for the 2001-02 fishing year, which begins on October 1, are due to be made in August.
"The catch limit for hoki this year is perhaps the most important fisheries management decision I have faced since becoming Minister of Fisheries, and also potentially one of the most difficult," Mr Hodgson said.
"I consider the stock itself is well managed. There is regular research that enables the fishery to be monitored and assessed. From this process there is information available that clearly indicates the catch level needs to be reduced this year."
Three different catch levels have been proposed for hoki, and Mr Hodgson's initial view is that the hoki catch limit should be reduced by 50,000 tonnes during the next fishing year, which begins on 1 October, bringing the catch level down from 250,000 tonnes to 200,000 tonnes.
Hoki is New Zealand's largest fishery by tonnage and value, and Mr Hodgson says he recognises that the reduction in tonnage will have a significant impact on the industry.
Looking to the longer term, Mr Hodgson said he favoured the idea of setting separate catch limits for the Cook Strait / Chatham Rise stock, and West Coast / Sub-Antarctic hoki stocks. He said the industry ought to act in a unified way so that practical area management options could be discussed, agreed to and, if appropriate, implemented by industry.
Mr Hodgson said important related issues were the deaths of seabirds and fur seals caught in the hoki fishery, and he favoured industry trialling the use of marine mammal exclusion devices, which eject captured fur seals. He also supported increasing observer coverage to monitor seabird captures in the hoki fishery.
A number of orange roughy stocks are being reviewed this year.
Mr Hodgson said that for quota area 7B, off the west coast of the South Island, the fishery appeared to be well below optimal levels. His initial view is to support a reduction of the catch limit from 430 tonnes to 110 tonnes.
By contrast the new assessments are optimistic for the North East Chatham Rise orange roughy stock, indicating it is at a level above the target biomass size. While indicating his intention to maintain the current total catch for the stock at its present level, Mr Hodgson said his initial view was to adjust the area based catch limits within the overall management area, enabling an increase in catch for the North East fishery.
Mr Hodgson said there were indications that for Paua 7, which is around and off the Marlborough Sounds-Nelson coastline, a reduction was necessary to halt the decline of the stock.
He congratulated industry and iwi on taking action to halt the decline of paua in this area, but said his initial view was to support a 20 per cent reduction of the commercial catch limit, from about 267 tonnes to 214 tonnes.
For Oreo 3A, a deepwater stock off the Canterbury coast, Mr Hodgson said assessments suggested the current catch of 4400 tonnes was not sustainable in the long term and the Minister has indicated is support for a 500 tonne reduction to the catch limit.
For Oreo 4, which is a large area to the east of the Canterbury coast, including the Chatham Islands, he signalled his support for a phased reduction of the catch limit, from 7000 to 5200 tonnes.
· Hectors dolphins
Mr Hodgson said he hoped current consultations on management for Hectors dolphins between the Ministry of Fisheries and stakeholders would result in implementation of appropriate long term management arrangements. If not, he would propose setting threshold limits for the commercial fishing industry at one death every five years in the Te WaeWae Bay area and at two deaths every year in the Banks Peninsula / Canterbury Bight area.