Fishing Concerns Aired at Deep Sea Fishing Conference

Chief Scientist John Annala of the NZ Fisheries Ministry said at the Deep Sea Fishing Conference held in Queenstown New Zealand during December 2003, and attended by 240 international fishery experts, that the impact of deepwater fishing on both the target fish species and the wider marine environment had to be better managed.

Main target species are the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish, which are traded under the names Antarctic cod, Chilean sea bass and Mero.

The fishery is still in its exploratory stage and needs more research, but it is a potentially lucrative industry.

The Antarctic toothfish fishery is currently free of illegal fishing problems, but the Patagonian toothfish fishery is plagued by poaching, and more fish are taken illegally than legally.

The toothfish season started 1 December 2003 and runs until August 2004 (but usually ends earlier because of the ice). Licences to fish and setting of Allowable Catches are authorised by CCAMLR.

Twenty six long-liners, including six New Zealand boats, have approval to fish in subarea 88.1 of the Ross Sea, the main Ross Sea Fishery area. This is double the number approved last year.

However, the total Allowable Catch is down from 3760 tonnes last year to 3250 tonnes this year.

The harshness of fishing conditions is indicated by the fact that it was possible last season to take only 1700 tonnes of fish. Some of the approved ships also have permission to fish in subarea 88.2.

The Head of the Antarctic Policy Unit of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Mr Trevor Hughes, said after the conference that a plan to have an official black list of ships involved in illegal fishing had fallen though due to lack of support from industry heavyweight Russia. "Illegal fishing remains very, very serious, while there are some horrifying estimates of birds being killed" Mr Hughes said.

"Russia wouldn't agree to a black list because a good number of vessels that would have been on the list would have been Russian.

"New Zealand strongly supports efforts to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing."

Mr Hughes also spoke of a Russian vessel that had been caught fishing in a closed area by a Royal NZ Air Force Orion last summer. "The crew of the Orion took photographs and gathered evidence, to a judicial level of quality, of the infringement.

Then, through our Ambassador in Moscow, we asked the evidence to be placed before the Russian authorities."

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