Skip to main content

New Zealand hoki fisheries meet international best practice standard for sustainability

Following a report from the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has confirmed that the New Zealand hoki fisheries meet the high requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard, widely recognised as the world’s most credible assessment of the sustainability of wild-caught seafood.

In 2001, New Zealand’s hoki fisheries became the first large-scale whitefish fisheries to achieve MSC certification, and have since been re-certified twice in 2007 and 2012. To achieve certification, fisheries must demonstrate to a third party certifier that they: ensure the long-term sustainability of fish stocks; minimise impacts on the marine environment; and are well managed, with effective governance and enforcement systems. Certification requires robust evidence to demonstrate that requirements are met.

“The MSC’s requirements reflect latest science and best management practices for environmentally responsible and sustainable fishing. To achieve MSC certification fisheries undergo 18 months of investigation, including stakeholder consultation and scientific peer review,” says MSC’s Regional Director for the Asia Pacific Region, Patrick Caleo.

“The New Zealand hoki fisheries have invested heavily in monitoring and management programmes that ensure healthy stock levels and a reduction in bycatch. It has delivered action plans to address all previous conditions of its MSC certification,” he adds.

Maintaining healthy fish stocks

To be certified a fishery must demonstrate that it is not causing the decline, or hindering the recovery, of any species. Since first certified in 2001, the hoki stocks have more than doubled as a result of careful stock management. The MSC Standard requires that the entire catch, including discards and bycatch, is accounted for and considered when determining whether stocks are strong enough to support the fishing being carried out.

 New Zealand’s Quota Management System (QMS) is founded on the scientific assessment of stocks. It requires strict documentation, high levels of surveillance (including satellite monitoring, government at-sea observers, rigorous monitoring of catch reporting), and has very large penalties for infringements. 

Protecting marine habitats and reducing bycatch

The MSC Standard includes requirements which ensure that interactions with non-target species are minimized and do not cause long-term harm to the population of any species, including marine mammals. 

Most (91%) of New Zealand’s waters (Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ) have not been bottom trawled. The fishing grounds for hoki are small, localised and have contracted over the years. Thirty-one per cent of New Zealand’s EEZ is also protected by law from bottom trawls as marine protected areas.

There is no overlap with the hoki fisheries and Maui dolphins. The hoki fisheries operate in completely different areas, beyond the habitat range of Maui dolphins.

Maintaining MSC certification

In order to maintain MSC certification, a fishery is subject to annual surveillance audits, and undergoes a full reassessment every five years. The annual audits take into account any new information about the sustainability of the fishery, including recently published academic research.

Mr Caleo notes that, “with these audits, we make sure that every certified fishery remains sustainable in the years after the certificate is published. We expect the independent certifier to review new scientific reports, along with other new information and determine if a response is required.”

Consumers can be confident that hoki they purchase with the MSC ecolabel has been sourced from fisheries that have proven their stocks are healthy, environmental impacts are minimised and have robust management in place,” he added.

The New Zealand hoki fisheries’ next annual surveillance is due to take place in November 2016. However, as evidence of their commitment to demonstrating their ongoing compliance with the MSC’s requirements, the hoki quota owners have asked the independent certifier, Acoura Marine to undertake an expedited audit on the issues raised in the UBC report.

George Clement of Deepwater Group, which represents the MSC certified hoki fisheries said: “we remain confident the hoki fisheries are well managed, monitored and sustainable. The fisheries undergo MSC audits each year as a means to independently verify their performance, but to address the allegations we will undertake an expedited audit as soon as possible.”

The fisheries’ latest assessment and full report detailing their sustainability credentials including bycatch reduction, hoki stock status and reduced environmental impacts can be viewed here. 

Further information: 

Further responses to the UBC research include:

  • New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries
  • Seafood New Zealand
  • Sustainable Fisheries Partnership