Group blasts Australia sustainable seafood guide

Published on
July 21, 2014

Seafood New Zealand vigorously defended the sustainability of New Zealand and Australian fish, after a new report warned consumers to stay away from several popular species.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said that five of the most commonly eaten species of fish in Australia are unsustainably managed and should be avoided, in its updated Sustainable Seafood Guide. Snapper, shark, imported prawns, squid, octopus, and blue grenadier (hoki) should be avoided, according to the new report.

However, the AMCS has not properly researched facts on the fisheries and is misinformed, according to George Clement, chairman of Seafood New Zealand. “They’ve provided no transparent criteria nor openness in their assessments. There’s no indication that they have actually challenged themselves to examine the facts when they’ve drawn up their list,” he said.

For example, conservative management of the major snapper fishery off the eastern Auckland region coast has resulted in significantly higher snapper numbers. “In 1997, a volume target was set to be achieved in 20 years. We reached the target in only 16 years. Our Ministry for Primary Industries scientists have recently assessed the fishery is still growing. That is not the description of a fishery that should be warned against,” Clement said.

However, the AMCS is not asserting that New Zealand snapper fisheries are inappropriately managed, Tooni Mahto, marine campaigns officer for AMCS, told SeafoodSource. “Snapper are on the red list as a result of the stock status of species, which remains overfished in the majority of areas of New Zealand, such as East Northland, Hauraki Bay and Bay of Plenty, where the majority appear to be caught. We are pleased to note the increase in stock and look forward to management initiatives resulting in healthy stocks in the future.”

AMCS contacted the Deepwater Group earlier this year with concerns with the hoki and arrow squid fisheries. The organization requested any additional information the company may be aware of that could improve the ranking, according to Mahto. “Unfortunately, we did not receive a response. We look forward to an on-going dialogue with both the Australian and New Zealand fishing industry, and remain committed and open to meaningful communication.”

In addition, the sustainability issues AMCS has with prawns and squid primarily relate to imported product. “[There is] broad scale habitat destruction in the regions considered (Thailand, China, Vietnam and Malaysia) and effluent management. Consumers in Australia cannot identify which individual farm their prawns come from, so the assessment is at a regional scale,” Mahto said.


According to Clement, the seafood industry has made a “huge investment” in its squid fleet operations to prevent sea lion captures, with Sea Lion Exclusion Devices. “The fleet in the Southern Ocean has only been responsible for five sea lion deaths in the past four years. Each death is of course regrettable, but the context of those numbers is that one disease alone is killing up to 600 sea lion pups a year in the sea lion breeding grounds,” he said.

Clement also defended New Zealand’s hoki exports to Australia, which AMCS said are caught using trawls in Australia and claimed the fishery discards half of its catch. “New Zealand’s hoki fisheries have been certified since 2001 as sustainable under the international gold standard of the international Marine Stewardship Council. Maybe the AMCS hasn’t heard of the MSC?”

The AMCS Sustainability Guide is also misinformed on orange roughy and shark, according to Seafood New Zealand. AMCS found that orange roughy is overfished in Australia and New Zealand waters, and are caught using deep sea trawlers.
 
“Orange roughy fishing is very conservative in New Zealand waters. Fewer than five percent of the adult fish are harvested each year...Three out of the four key fisheries have been rebuilt, with the fourth rebuilding. The fishery is in the MSC assessment process,” Clement said.
 
In relation to sharks, finning of live sharks has been illegal in New Zealand since at least 1999. “It [AMCS] stated that finning of live sharks is currently permitted and practiced in New Zealand. This is not true,” Clement said. “A number of shark species in New Zealand waters are fully protected under conservation legislation. Other species are commercially caught within quotas set under the New Zealand Quota Management System.”

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