Reaction mixed to hoki quota increase
New Zealand Fisheries Minister Phil Heatley on Tuesday announced a 22 percent increase in the country’s 2009-10 hoki quota.
The hoki quota is set at 110,000 metric tons for the 2009-10 fishing year, which begins on Thursday. That’s up 20,000 metric tons from 2008-09.
The announcement comes nearly three months after the ministry released the results of the 2009 stock assessment, which showed that the eastern hoki stock remains “strong” and is well within sustainable target levels. In addition, the assessment showed that the western hoki stock is back to sustainable target levels after years of low recruitment (the number of young fish surviving to adulthood and entering a fishery).
Heatley said a larger quota increase was justified, but he erred on the side of caution.
Hoki is New Zealand’s largest fishery and one of the world’s biggest whitefish resources. After peaking at 250,000 metric tons in 2000-01, the hoki quota has dropped gradually, bottoming out at 90,000 metric tons in 2008-09.
Despite the quota cuts, New Zealand’s hoki fishery was recertified as well managed and sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council in 2007 (it was initially certified in 2001).
Reaction to the quota increase was mixed. The New Zealand Seafood Industry council praised the decision.
“We welcome [Heatley’s] decision as sensible and one that reflects the long-term management targets,” said George Clement, CEO of the council’s DeepWater Group. “Of course, we’re pleased the increased western stock size allows for an increase in catches — that’s good for business. Equally, when recruitment of young hoki into the western stock was low and the stock size declined, we supported catch reductions. This approach might cause short-term economic pain, but we are here for the long term. Catching only what is sustainable is the best outcome for both business and the fisheries.”
New Zealand’s Green Party criticized the quota increase.
“The hoki fishery needs to prove its sustainability and clean up its environmental act before the quota should be increased,” said Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. “The fishery was clearly overfished — it is now slowly recovering, but is far from healthy. It is naive to presume all is well again and raise the quota so soon.
“Hoki can become a sustainable fishery for New Zealand, and is slowly improving,” added Turei, “but it needs to apply a good dose of caution, cease destructive bottom-trawling and drastically reduce its bycatch of New Zealand fur seals and albatrosses.”
The quota increase comes on the heels of a New York Times story that questioned the health of New Zealand’s hoki fishery.
In addition to hoki, Heatley on Tuesday announced the quotas for 10 other fisheries, including orange roughy, ling and black cardinalfish.