Press release

New Zealand orange roughy fishery certified as sustainable

December 8, 2016

Around 60% of the total catch of New Zealand’s orange roughy has achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for sustainable fishing practices and is now eligible to carry the MSC ecolabel.

To achieve MSC certification, the New Zealand orange roughy fishery has demonstrated that it meets the high bar of sustainability set by the MSC Fishery Standard. Widely recognized as the world’s most credible and robust standard for sustainable fishing, the MSC Fishery Standard is founded on three principles: healthy fish stocks, minimising impact on the wider marine environment, and effective fishery management. 

20 years of management improvements

Certification of New Zealand orange roughy - the first orange roughy fisheries globally to be assessed to the MSC Standard - is recognition of over 20 years of management improvements and scientific innovation.

This certification signals to the world that collaboration among industry, Māori iwi leaders, government, scientists and other interest groups has the power to improve the health of fish stocks and ensure their sustainability. We believe that rewarding positive change through our certification program and ecolabel is essential if we are to ensure healthy oceans,” said MSC's Asia Pacific Director Patrick Caleo.

In partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries, the New Zealand fishing industry has invested heavily in rebuilding orange roughy stocks through catch reductions, including setting this at times to zero, and a harvest strategy based on a comprehensive research plan.

Our management approach has been substantially revised from the early years and is now very precautionary.  To ensure the long-term productivity of this fishery - for every 100 adult orange roughy in New Zealand, we harvest less than 5 each year, leaving at least 95 to ensure that these stocks remain healthy for the future,” said George Clement, Chief Executive of Deepwater Group, a non-profit organisation representing New Zealand’s major deepwater quota owners.

Our science-based management demonstrates our commitment to ensure that we have healthy fish stocks and a healthy marine environment.  MSC certification gives our buyers and consumers third party assurance that our seafood is harvested sustainably and responsibly,” added Mr Clement.

Conditions of certification

These three orange roughy stocks are certified with conditions, which require further evidence that each are within the management target population levels (one stock), that the direct effects of orange roughy fishing are not causing unacceptable impacts on corals (two stocks), and that external reviews of the management systems is undertaken (three stocks).

“We are confident that these three orange roughy stocks have been rebuilt and are now within the management target population level where they can be fished sustainably. The external review has been commissioned and completed, contracts are in place to update the stock assessments and plans are in place to provide additional information on corals,” advises Mr Clement

Assessment process

The New Zealand orange roughy fishery has undergone more than two years of independent review and assessment by an independent team of experts employed by conformity assessment body, MRAG Americas. As part of this process the MSC requires certification bodies to seek and consider input from all stakeholders. This is an essential part of a thorough and credible assessment of a fisheries’ practices. Their findings were also peer reviewed by two independent experts.

The fishery will be subject to annual surveillance audits, and undergo a full reassessment every five years. The annual audits take into account any new information about the sustainability of the fishery. These audits ensure that every certified fishery remains sustainable in the years after the certificate is published.

Read the story of the New Zealand orange roughy fisheries' extraordinary turn around >

Download a factsheet about MSC certified New Zealand orange roughy (PDF) >

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