Editorial: Fish stocks a problem we must solve

By Roger Moroney

5 comments

A few decades back there was a remarkable deep sea discovery - one which created a lot of smiles, delighted lots of tastebuds and had the diesel pumping furiously to get the trawlers back to sea.

It was a thing called an orange roughy. They were an immediate sensation and the nets trawled long and deep to bring them ashore as the demand was there and, accordingly, so were the profits.

And here we are today ... in an orange roughy-free state.

You'd be hard pressed to find a fillet of it anywhere, for they were fished to the stage where their stocks, in some regions, dropped to just 10 per cent. They are a long-lived, slow-growing, late-maturing species which immediately made them prone to overfishing. Basically, they were decimated, as they have been in other parts of the world.

The UK Marine Conservation Society described that unfortunate species as "vulnerable to exploitation".

So it was goodbye roughy and back to the faster-growing, easier to find gurnard, cod, tarakihi and, of course, the plentiful hoki which appears to be the great sustainer of the visiting international trawler industry.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days about a report which found the total number of fish caught in our waters during a 60-year period was about 2.7 times higher than official statistics suggested. That is rather a substantial point of difference and I daresay recreational anglers will be nodding in agreement as they have certainly seen some evidence of it themselves - through weekend fishing jaunts which result in baited hooks remaining baited on many occasions.

I don't think there is any doubt the stocks of fish out there in Hawke Bay are down and there may well be a good case for developing a strategy, a plan, a long-term programme to reinvigorate fish stocks but not at the expense of nobbling the local fishing industry which employs a lot of people and does cater for domestic and export demand.

The logistics of enforcing any such introduced "don't fish here" boundaries is another thing, however.

We are a police launch-free zone and half the navy inshore boats are moored and up for sale, so just how it would be patrolled is anyone's guess.

The industry is sustainable as fish, like livestock upon the land, emerge and grow.

It's the management of them that is complicated and, having returned home myself from too many shoreline expeditions gurnard and snapper-free, I'm all for the issue being placed firmly under the regional spotlight.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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