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Orange roughy commercial catch reduced to an all time low

15 November 2007

The Minister of Fisheries, Jim Anderton, has set the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for orange roughy, in the New Zealand EEZ at its lowest level of 13,082 tonnes for the 2007-08 fishing year.

This is an 11 percent reduction from the 2006-07 TACC of 14,721 tonnes.  The total catch of 14,167 tonnes in that year was 9 percent less than the previous year.

The total catch is now 24 percent of the highest catch of 54,000 tonnes in 1989.  Sixty percent of that catch came from the Chatham Rise, the most productive area in the New Zealand orange roughy fishery.

The annual orange roughy catch has been in continual decline since it peaked at 54,000 tonnes in 1989.

Most of the catch reduction will be implemented in the East and South Chatham Rise.  This area is part of the Chatham Rise and southern New Zealand fishery (ORH 3B) in which the 2007-08 TACC has been reduced 9 percent from 11,500 to 10,500 tonnes.

The actual ORH 3B commercial catch of 11,271 tonnes in 2006-07 was down by 1,283 tonnes (10 percent) from 12,554 tonnes in 2005-06.

The 2005-06 TACC limit of 12,500 tonnes in the ORH 3B fishery was reduced by 8 percent to 11,500 tonnes in 2006-07.

The current allowable Chatham Rise catch is 27 percent of the 1988/89 peak of 38,300 tonnes.

The actual 2006-07 commercial catch in the Chatham Rise catch is 35 percent of the peak in 1988/89 of 32,300 tonnes.

Continued reduction of the quota raises questions about the sustainability of orange roughy.

When setting catch limits for the last two fishing years, the Fisheries Minister has expressed significant reservations about the quality and reliability of the scientific stock assessment of orange roughy on the Chatham Rise.

Many seamounts and smaller hills on the Chatham Rise that were principal orange roughy habitats, have been scraped clean from extensive bottom trawling.

Another area where the Minister of Fisheries has reduced the TACC is the northern North Island orange roughy fishery (ORH 1), which is down to 870 tonnes per year, a 38 percent reduction from 1,400 tonnes in 2006-07.

In 2006, the commercial catch in the northern North Island fishery was reduced by 43 percent to 800 tonnes, but was increased during the 2006-07 fishing year.

The actual catch in ORH 1 in 2006-07 was 1,035 tonnes, which was 365 tonnes less than the TACC, and down 14 percent from the previous year.

The Western South Island orange roughy fishery (ORH 7B) has been closed altogether with little prospect of it reopening in the short or middle term.  The TACC was 110 tonnes in the 2006-07 fishing year.

The reduced catch limits follow a familiar downward trend.  As orange roughy stocks decline, the management system which the government commonly calls the best in the world, simply keeps lowering the allowable catch.

A fish as old as the bloody hills .....

Orange roughy live around seamounts, and plateaus just off the continental shelf at depths from 700 to 1,500 metres.

It has one of the longest lives of all marine species - 120 to 130 years, and is thought to mature and start reproducing between 23 and 32 years of age.

It has a low fecundity and low egg count of 40,000 to 60,000 eggs.

Orange roughy grow to 50 cm in length and weigh up to 3.6 kg, but are commonly caught at 35-45 cm and 0.8 to 1.5 kg.

Long living deepsea fish are slow to recover from fishing, and generally are depleted more rapidly and recover more slowly, if at all, than inshore fish.


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