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MSC Hoki appeal shows fishery should never have been certified

16 December 2002 ~ Contact: Barry Weeber (04)385-7374 or 025-622-7369

The Forest and Bird Protection Society said it was stunned that the Marine Stewardship Council has upheld the certification of the New Zealand hoki fishery despite acknowledging that the originally the fishery did not meet the sustainability criteria.

“Trawling for hoki drowns a thousand fur seals and kills nearly that many albatross and petrels each year,” Forest and Bird Senior Researcher, Barry Weeber, said. “The hoki fishery is one of New Zealand’s most destructive fisheries and it is impossible to see how it might be regarded as sustainable.”

“I think a lot of people in Europe who buy fish-fingers made of our hoki would be shocked at how low the environmental standards are for their ‘sustainably fished’ dinner.”

Mr Weeber said the draft appeal decision, which was released to the Society for comment, noted that it could be years before it is known whether the fishery is sustainable.

“We are appalled that none of the new corrective actions resulting from the appeal relate to the hundreds of albatross and petrels annually killed in this fishery. Seven threatened species and two near-threatened species have been observed killed in hoki trawling operations.”

Mr Weeber noted that the Marine Stewardship Council had not had the good grace to inform them of the decision on the Society’s appeal. “We obtained a copy of the media release from Greenpeace.”

“It appears the industry must have been told about this days ago which allowed it to organise a media function at Te Papa. The Marine Stewardship Council and the industry are adding to their poor public relations approach by failing to notify the complainant.”

Mr Weeber said the hoki certification saga had suffered from poor process and communications by Marine Stewardship Council and their certifier.


Further information is available on the Forest and Bird complaint and our response to the Marine Stewardship Council Appeal Panel.

Our concerns are that the original certification relates to:

Process and procedures - that the hoki assessment criteria has major flaws which means that elements in the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing are either not applied or are mis-applied.

Errors of fact and information which mean that minor Corrective Action Requests (CAR) should have been labelled as major CARs;
Inadequate information was available for other stakeholders to assess or comment on the assessment;
The speed and little notice of the visit of the panel to New Zealand meant that several groups were not consulted - eg Greenpeace and the Department of Conservation.
A precautionary approach was not taken to the information available in assessing the fishery.
The assessment and certification ignores the failure to report fur seal and seabird deaths as legally required by the Marine Mammals Protection Act and the Wildlife Act.
Failure to address the impact of the hoki fishery on seal and seabirds, and other non-target species.

The hoki fishery has significant environmental effects that are not being controlled through precautionary measures:

Hoki is managed as one stock when there are known to be two spawning stocks, East and West.
Hoki fishers have not promoted measures to split the hoki total allowable commercial catch (TACC) or to set a precautionary catch limit for the Eastern hoki stock;
Over-catch of ling, hake and silver warehou on the West Coast of the South Island caused by the hoki catch has not been controlled. Sustainable yields of these species have not been estimated. The assessment claims the “overcatch of quota species is relatively low” (page 23) but, for example, ling 7 TACC was overcaught by 50% in 1998-99. On the West Coast of the South Island the average over-catch for last five years for ling 7 was 138 percent, hake 7 was 114 percent and silver warehou of 121 percent.
Around 1000 fur seals are killed annually by the hoki fishery (see appendix 2). Fur seals populations are around 5 percent of the level they were in 1800 and populations adjacent to the West Coast hoki fishery have declined in recent years (see appendix 3). No steps are being taken to minimise this bycatch despite the development of seal excluder devices over the last 5 years which could be used and trialled in this fishery.
Around 1100 seabirds are caught annually by hoki fishery trawlers (see appendix 1). Over 60 percent of this catch are albatross species - principally white-capped, Buller’s and Salvin’s which are all listed by IUCN as vulnerable threatened species. No steps are being taken to reduce this bycatch. Four of the albatross species and one of the petrel species observed caught in this fishery are recognised as threatened species in the latest IUCN Red list of threatened species (see Appendix 1). On page 12 of the assessment there is a claim that these species are “vulnerable, but not endangered or threatened”. This is a ridiculous claim, the “threatened species” criteria of IUCN includes “critically endangered”, “endangered”, and “vulnerable” (see Any species finally and authoritatively tested by IUCN as vulnerable is a threatened species.
There is no strategic assessment of the environmental effects of the fishery nor is there an assessment of the impacts on non-target species or information to comply with the full requirements of the Fisheries Act 1996.
There is no agreed management plan for the fishery. The Hoki Fishery Management Company Ltd (HFMC) plans have not been discussed with other stakeholders nor have they any status under the Fisheries Act 1996, the Wildlife Act or the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
The HFMC have not got procedures to enforce resolutions of disputes. As stated in the assessment document “there is limited evidence shown of effective implementation of the HFMC agreed procedures. The link between the HFMC and its members are weak to compel compliance in part due to the voluntary nature of the membership.” (Indicator 3D).