MSC: New Zealand's hoki fisheries are still sustainable

Published on
June 1, 2016

In the wake of a critical report on the status of New Zealand's fisheries from the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Marine Stewardship Council has confirmed that the New Zealand hoki fisheries have met the sustainability requirements put forth by the MSC Fisheries Standard. 

The New Zealand hoki fisheries have gained MSC approval on several occasions, becoming the first large-scale whitefish fisheries to achieve MSC certification in 2001, and then achieving recertification in both 2007 and 2012. These whitefish fisheries have benefitted from investiments in stock monitoring and management, according to MSC. 

“The New Zealand hoki fisheries have invested heavily in monitoring and management programs that ensure healthy stock levels and a reduction in bycatch. It has delivered action plans to address all previous conditions of its MSC certification,” said Patrick Caleo, MSC’s regional director for the Asia Pacific Region.

As part of the rubric for achieving MSC certification and recertification, fisheries must prove that no major decline in stocks or hindering of stock recovery has occurred, for the species in question as well as others. Hoki stocks have more than doubled since the New Zealand whitefish fisheries first achieved certification in 2001, a result of careful stock management, according to MSC. The fisheries also employ the New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS), which requires strict documentation, high levels of surveillance (including satellite monitoring, government at-sea observers, rigorous monitoring of catch reporting), and assures stringent penalties for violations. This helps to fulfill the MSC Standard requirement that stipulates fisheries must account for their entire catch, including discards and bycatch.

MSC has found that 91 percent of New Zealand’s waters, or Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), have not been subjected to bottom trawling, with 31 percent of the region’s EEZ preserved as marine protected areas. Because the hoki fishing grounds are condensed and localized in the region, the fisheries are able to help ensure that interactions with non-target species are minimized and do not cause long-term harm to the population of any species, including marine mammals like Maui dolphins, noted MSC.

“Consumers can be confident that hoki they purchase with the MSC eco-label has been sourced from fisheries that have proven their stocks are healthy, environmental impacts are minimised and have robust management in place,” said Caleo.

“We remain confident the hoki fisheries are well managed, monitored and sustainable. The fisheries undergo MSC audits each year as a means to independently verify their performance, but to address the allegations we will undertake an expedited audit as soon as possible,” said George Clement, of Deepwater Group, which represents the MSC certified hoki fisheries.

The next surveillance for the New Zealand hoki fisheries is scheduled for November 2016. However, concerns raised in the UBC report have prompted hoki owners to request that independent certifier Acoura Marine conduct an expedited audit.

MSC’s full rationale behind certifying the New Zealand hoki fisheries can be found here.

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