Hoki catch increased after fishery bounceback

TIM HUNTER
BusinessDay.co.nz

The fishing industry will be allowed to catch more hoki in the coming season, which starts next month, despite calls from fishing company Sanford for the limit be maintained.

Fisheries minister Phil Heatley said the ministry’s science programme indicated the hoki fishery had fully recovered from its decline.

”The science also indicates that the hoki fishery could support an even greater catch increase, but it is important that we act responsibly so I have agreed to a more modest increase.”

The total allowable commercial catch will rise by 10,000 tonnes to 130,000 tonnes from October 1, with the increase applying to hoki stocks in the western fishing area.

Hoki is one of New Zealand’s most important commercial fish species, generating about $100 million a year in export revenue.

Although the catch limit has increased it is still well short of its 2001 peak of 250,000 tonnes.

The catch limit was reduced drastically in 2004 to 100,000 tonnes and again in 2007 to 90,000 tonnes.

Heatley said hoki stocks will be surveyed later this year and the stock reassessed in 2012.

Last month Sanford published a letter to Heatley saying the projected increase was ”too much, too fast”, and requesting the limit be held steady until more information was available.

”In the period July to September 2009 the industry took the permitted 25,000mt from the Western Stock. Since then with transfers from the East and two TACC increases the take from the Western Stock is now 60,000mt.

”This means that since 2009 we will have taken an additional 105,000mt of hoki all from the Western stock without having seriously measured the impact of this additional extraction. In Sanford’s opinion it is time to pause and take stock.”

Heatley also announced a further cut in catch limits for orange roughy, from 4840 to 3780 tonnes in the main catching area.

”These reductions will have a significant impact on fishing operators and I appreciate their continued commitment to work with the Ministry to rebuild these fisheries,” said Heatley.

The slow-growing species – it takes at least 23 years to reach sexual maturity – has suffered from overfishing has its catch limit has been reduced successively since 2006.

In other changes, Healtey announced a catch limit cut for bluenose, an increase in recreational catch allowances for tuna and changes to ”deemed value” penalties for catches exceeding catch entitlements in some species.

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