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Academics’ Report lacks Scientific Credibility

Press Release – Seafood New Zealand

The catch reconstruction final report released today which claims the New Zealand catch over 60 years is more than twice that reported lacks credibility, says Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst.May 16, 2016

Academics’ Report lacks Scientific Credibility

The catch reconstruction final report released today which claims the New Zealand catch over 60 years is more than twice that reported lacks credibility, says Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst.

“To base estimates on historical anecdotes, rather than on factual scientific records, does a great disservice to our internationally recognised sustainably managed fisheries”, he says.

The report, Reconstruction of Marine Fisheries Catches for New Zealand (1950-2010) has Dr Glenn Simmons of Auckland University’s Business School as its lead author. It is part of an international Sea Around Us study headed by Daniel Pauly from the University of British Columbia, which has funding support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. The authors make claims that New Zealand has under-reported its catches to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) throughout this time period.

The authors appear to be unaware of FAO’s requirements that Coastal States specifically exclude the reporting of discards and of catches from foreign flagged vessels when reporting catch statistics to FAO. The report includes scaled up estimates of both of these.

“This report, which relies upon anecdotal concerns masquerading as facts, would not meet rigorous independent scientific peer review. The sample is hopelessly biased. It includes interviews with 300 people, none of whom are named, and 200 of whom were crews on foreign chartered vessels complaining about their treatment.

“The only way Dr Simmons and his co-authors could have arrived at their conclusions is to make a guess. They concede as much, saying there are ‘obvious difficulties in catch reconstruction’. They are so desperate to make their case they even include the case of a fisherman who fed his cat on discarded fish. The same unnamed informant who revealed this dastardly practice had also eaten seafood at fishermen’s houses and suspected it had not been declared (Interviewee 189).

“To try and further shore up a shaky case the report cites fish dumping reports from 1937-38 (outside the survey period), 1956, 1958 and 1962. How does that possibly relate to the situation well over half a century later?

“The Ministry for Primary Industries holds the official catch records from New Zealand’s fisheries along with independent observer audits of these records. We understand that the authors of this report did not consult with MPI nor with NIWA when preparing their report. We know the authors have those reports because we forwarded them to them, but they have chosen to ignore them.

“A draft report was released 14 months ago. There has been some minor scaling back but the authors are clearly on a mission.
“If the authors had simply read NIWA’s peer reviewed scientific reports, which summarise catches since the early 1990s as verified by Government observers (see NIWA Report on Catches), they would understand that the level of discards equate to only about 6% of the reported catch – not more than two times the reported catch, as is claimed by the authors.

“The report looks back over 61 years, including the decades when New Zealand had no jurisdiction over catches outside of our Territorial Sea in what has since become our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“In addition to securing our EEZ in 1977, New Zealand introduced a comprehensive Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986. These two measures have changed the face of New Zealand fishing to make it a world leader in fisheries management and compliance..

“It’s a whole different ball game now. New Zealand’s fisheries management is recognised as one of the best with one of the highest compliance levels in the world (see Compliance Report).
“We all want to see a better managed fishery and it could always be improved.”

Tim Pankhurst says this report’s unsubstantiated claims fly in the face of 30 years of New Zealand’s sustainable fisheries management under the QMS.

“The strict documentation requirements on catches, the high levels of enforcement, and large penalties for infringements over the past 30 years, along with independent science to assess sustainable quota levels, provides evidence that the actual catches have been very close to the reported catches during this period.

“More than half of the deep water fleet, including all foreign chartered vessels, now have MPI observers on board – this monitoring is much more rigorous than it was prior to the 1980s.
“The sustainability of our key fisheries has been audited against the world’s highest standards under the Marine Stewardship Council’s programme. The fisheries for hoki, southern blue whiting, albacore tuna, hake and ling are all certified as sustainable. Together the catches from these species represent around three quarters of the deep water catch.

“Our fisheries management system is among the best in the world. The results from a fisheries governance study, presented at the 2016 Seafood Summit in Malta ranked New Zealand as one of the world’s top five best-managed fisheries,” Tim Pankhurst says.

To view and download videos of Tim Pankhurst, Seafood New Zealand Board Chairman George Clement, and members of the fishing industry speaking about the report and their commitment to sustainability click the Media Centrebutton below.


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