Fish industry uses net to catch hoki criticism

To the surprise of conservationists, in 2001 the New Zealand hoki fishery was recognised as a sustainably managed fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council. Yet conservationists have continually raised concerns over how the fishery could possibly be sustainable when bycatch rates of NZ fur seals and seabirds are so high and the bottom trawling equipment used by the fishery is so damaging.

In September 2009 the New York Times gave these concerns international attention by highlighting that the hoki industry may not be the picture of ocean sustainability it claimed to be. Hoki (Macruronus novaezealandiae) is the primary ingredient in Filet-o-Fish and McDonald’s branches worldwide rely on it.

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council found this hard to stomach and acted by buying google adwords for kewords like New Zealand, hoki, New York Times and Laura Chang (the New York Times editor).

This apparently comes at a cost of $300-500 per day, but with McDonald’s buying millions of dollars of hoki each year, the investment in managing the information available to consumers is obviously worth it. One of the benefits of this PR investment was that it enabled the Seafood Council to link the word hoki in the New York Times article to a Seafood Council web page, which essentially provides their rebuttal to the article.

Each year the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society publishes a consumer guide, which ranks the ecological sustainability of seafood from our commercial fisheries.  Forest and Bird ranks hoki an ‘E: Red – worst choice’ in it’s Best Fish Guide 09-10, which frog posted on earlier.

The guide is becoming increasingly popular and this year gained the support of nationwide burger chain, Burger Wisconsin who followed Forest and Bird’s advice and switched from deepwater dory to the more sustainable tarakihi. The Seafood Council has recognised the influence of the Best Fish Guide in it’s own way. The Council bought the URL, which now links – you guessed it – to a Seafood Council webpage with a ‘Great Fish Guide’ – a guide on the best ways to prepare and eat seafood!

I’d much rather the Seafood Council invested their PR money in researching ways to manage truly sustainable fisheries.

9 Comments Posted

  1. jc2 says that our quota management system (QMS) limits fishing – so addresses the issue to some degree.

    Indeed that is exactly what the QMS is supposed to do. But….. in practise…. of the 628 fish stocks managed under the QMS:

    – we only have enough info to determine status of stock for <19% (117 stocks);
    – Very few species are subject to regular quantitative stock assessments;
    – Only a handful of stocks (around 10) are assessed against their quota each year;
    – A minoriity of quotas requiring reductions or cautious decision making fail to be implement due to failing the 'legal challenge' test. Orange roughy a prime example.

    The Best Fish Guide is a tool that does not discourage us from eating fish. Rather it encourages us to be well informed prior to our decision making so that we make a wise choice for our oceans.

    It's pretty simple really – read, learn, ask questions and just don't eat the red fish!

  2. @pentwig, no I’m not, our fishing industry will be introuble until:

    – We ensure foreign vessels, meet NZ H & S standards, pay NZ minimum wages and most importantly have MFish officers there to ensure they aren’t over-fishing (which NZ vessels must do at great cost)
    – Eliminate bottom trawlers and dredges (at minimum)
    – Massively increase Marine Reserve areas

  3. Pentwig isn’t bound by my answer, and everything I know, I learned from National Radio.

    The quota system does work for limiting fishing effort, which has some value in preserving the future of the resource, so I’m not surprised if people who have no controls think it’s better than what they have or want to learn from it.

  4. Notice that there is not much green in the ‘Best Fish Guide” and the red is over the Half way mark.

    I wonder how much green it will have in 2015.

    Jezza is right the fishing industry is in a very serious situation, the deep dragnets have plaughed up large areas of the oceans sea floor on which the whole eco system depends.

    It is going to take Pentwig a few pages of sophestry to prove otherwise and even then I don’t think he will suceed, at least not on this sight anyway.

  5. Do any of the fish caught by New Zealand commercial fishermen end up as stock food? Chickens, I understand, and cows (God help us all) are fed considerable amounts of fish as supplementary feed.
    It seems an appalling thing to do.

  6. Lots of problems with our fishing industry, it annoys me it is seen as sustainable and world leading… Doesn’t say much for the industry worldwide…

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