• Tim Pankhurst is chief executive of Seafood New Zealand.

It is ironic that a few days after New Zealand was named as one of the five most sustainable fisheries in the world that we see Forest & Bird again repeating the misinformation in their so-called "Best Fish Guide".

And that is disappointing, because the one thing Forest & Bird and the seafood industry can agree on is we both want a sustainable fishery that is held to high environmental standards. We just differ on how to get there.

In a column in the Herald last week, Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague continues to insist that New Zealanders should severely restrict the fish they eat because it objects to methods used in catching some species. It might be useful to revisit the facts.


According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, 96.8 per cent of New Zealand fish is caught from sustainable fish stocks. As an example, hoki stocks have increased in size for the past eight consecutive years - due to good management and conservative catches.

Six of our fisheries have been given the gold standard of sustainable status - Marine Stewardship Council certification. Fisheries around the world clamour for that honour and Forest & Bird's attempt at discrediting the Marine Stewardship Council reflects poorly on them. Don't blame the science when you run out of other arguments.

Orange roughy is the latest to gain Marine Stewardship Council certification. It joins hoki, hake, southern blue whiting, albacore tuna, and ling and those species represent 74 per cent of all deep water fish caught in New Zealand waters.

New Zealand's salmon is also a winner. The salmon farming industry has international sustainability recognition from the globally respected consumer guide Seafood Watch. It rated both New Zealand's sea farmed and fresh water salmon as a green light, best choice, option

Seafood Watch is produced by the independent conservation organisation Monterey Bay Aquarium and is the authoritative consumer guide on sustainable seafood in North America.

And, as mentioned earlier, in a survey of 28 countries, which included 20 countries that landed the most fish, New Zealand was rated in the top five most sustainable fisheries in the world.

The research by Michael Melnychuk, a research scientist at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington, and three co-authors was published by Washington's National Academy of Sciences.

A strong correlation was found between the state of the country's fish stocks and the quality of its fisheries management.

New Zealand's Quota Management System is already recognised as one of the leading fisheries management systems in the world and it is good to have that reaffirmed in this paper out of the United States.

Mr Hague also states that arrow squid caught by trawling is a "worst choice" because of the bycatch of "critically-threatened New Zealand sea lions". In the past season for this fishery, 92 per cent of boats sailed with observers and not one sea lion fatality was recorded.

We are not arguing that the New Zealand seafood industry is perfect. It is not.

What we are arguing is that, on an international scale, we are pretty damn good - and constantly improving our environmental and sustainability record. It is pleasing to see even Mr Hague recognising that the snapper fishery is likely to be lifted to the lofty heights of a good fish choice in their next Best Fish Guide because of the efforts of longline fishermen to reduce seabird bycatch.

The New Zealand consumer has plenty of good, healthy fish choices that are caught in a sustainable way and they are much more extensive than Forest & Bird would have you believe. For a guide that relies on science, not ideology, you might like to check out www.bestfishguide.co.nz

The seafood industry is one of New Zealand's biggest employers, contributes billions to GDP, and has a genuine will to do the right thing for sustainability and the environment.

The simple truth is that, if we don't, the industry is the biggest loser.

It is in everyone's best interests to get this right. It would be refreshing to see the considerable progress that continues to be made, actually acknowledged.