Fisheries NZ Minister Stuart Nash’s decision to allow tarakihi stocks to remain overfished for the next 25 years is not environmentally sustainable, and Forest & Bird is seeking a judicial review of the decision.
The East Coast tarakihi stock has been seriously overfished. In 2018 Fisheries NZ determined that the species had been depleted to only 15% of natural (unfished) abundance. The minimum level that the stock should be fished down to is 40%, according to Fisheries NZ.
“Tarakihi is an important coastal fish, so it is very concerning it has been overfished to this extent,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
“This is a critically low level. There is clear Government policy that any fish stocks that are overfished to this extent must be rebuilt, and in the case of tarakihi this should happen within a maximum of 10 years.”
"In 2018, Minister Nash rightly decided that a 10-year rebuild timeframe was appropriate and that a 55% cut in commercial fishing would be needed to achieve that rebuild. He decided to take a phased approach to the rebuild, making an initial 20% cut to commercial fishing. But his 2019 decision to reduce the commercial catch by only 10% means it will now take 25 years for the stock to rebuild,” says Mr Hague.
“To make matters worse, Fisheries NZ’s modelling shows that there is only a 50% probability that with this level of fishing the stock will be able to rebuild in that 25-year timeframe.”
“The Fisheries Act is far from perfect, and Forest & Bird believes it needs a significant overhaul to bring fisheries management into the 21st century. But even under the current system, fish stocks should be managed sustainably. This decision should be a concern to anyone who makes their living from the sea, and to recreational fishers and tangata whenua because it is simply not sustainable fishing.
“Forest & Bird considers that the Minister has been incorrectly advised, and has come to a decision that does not meet the legal requirements under the Fisheries Act for New Zealand’s East Coast tarakihi population”.
Forest & Bird says it is also concerned the Minister relied on a voluntary plan provided by the fishing industry which contains actions such as further research, and rules where commercial fishing boats would temporarily move on from an area if they are catching too many undersized fish.
“The Industry Rebuild Plan shouldn't be used in place of an appropriate catch limit. There is no way to determine what impact the industry plan will have, because the plan is voluntary. Fisheries NZ’s advice was that ‘it is uncertain as to whether the Industry Rebuild Plan will deliver an accelerated rate of rebuild',” Mr Hague says.