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Antarctic Fishing Sustainable and Tightly Controlled

01 August 2012, at 1:00am

NEW ZEALAND - The fishing activities of the New Zealand fishing industry in the Antarctic's Ross Sea are responsible and sustainable says the industry organisation, the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, in anticipation of the release of a documentary film on the subject by New Zealand film-maker Peter Young.

Entitled "The Last Ocean", this film will have its first showing as part of the film festival. The industry has been refused the opportunity to see it in advance, however, the film is listed in the "activist" and "environmental" categories at the festival and is understood to attack the Antarctic toothfish fishery which operates in the Ross Sea.

"Clearly this documentary film has a point of view", says Peter Bodeker, chief executive of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council. "We are concerned though that its intent will be to generate public outrage in the absence of the full picture. We want to make sure people are able to get a balanced view."

"We support an active conservation policy in the Ross Sea, in fact already large areas are closed to fishing under existing and internationally agreed conservation measures that the New Zealand industry has actively supported. We do not support its total closure as is being advocated.

"In that context the Ross Sea toothfish fishery is a highly managed fishery. It operates under the guidance of an international agency named "Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources" (CCAMLR) which is made up of all countries which have an interest in conserving the marine environment of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region," he says.

"CCAMLR sets very conservative catch limits and has very specific rules for exploratory fisheries such as the Ross Sea toothfish fishery, so there is built-in caution in the system.

Last year New Zealand's toothfish catch was 26 per cent of the total catch limit set by CCAMLR, and for the past six years only once has it topped 40 per cent of this catch limit.

Mr Bodeker said that the annual total toothfish harvest by CCAMLR members was less than three per cent (three per cent) of the total biomass of toothfish in the Ross Sea from 2011.

In addition to these international measures, New Zealand operates strictly within the guidelines of the respected international certification organisation, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which describes New Zealand's approach as "well managed".

The MSC accreditation process is rigorous and highly internationally regarded. It is based on three core principles; the fishing activity has to be at a level which is sustainable for the fish population, fishing operations must minimise environmental impact and finally, the fishery must have an effective management system in place.

"In short, this industry is doing the right thing by the New Zealand Government, by other international Governments and agencies and by the unique Antarctic environment itself. We fish responsibly and sustainably, and the fishery is backed up by good science.

"In this respect, we exercise a high level of restraint. The fishing takes place over an area, which in total, is less than three per cent (three per cent) of the total area of the Ross Sea.
"In addition, the Ross Sea is has a natural protection of sea ice which means it is closed off to fishing naturally for eight months of the year. Our environmental footprint is therefore very small.

"It is understood that this film, together with a number of environmental groups, calls for the total closure of the Ross Sea to all fishing activity," says Mr Bodeker.

"We believe this is a total over-reaction and unnecessary. New Zealand has been fishing parts of the area in a careful and managed way for many years, demonstrating that it is possible to effectively balance conservation and fishing.

"We are concerned at the all-or-nothing approach amongst some environmental groups at present. This approach ignores the good work of CCAMLR, of Government agencies and the industry. Careful and responsible fishing, respectful of the Antarctic environment has few, if any, adverse effects.

"We can only hope that the public is able to manage the feelings of guilt this type of campaign is designed to engender and to trust the combined efforts of international and government institutions which are doing a good job protecting the Antarctic environment.

"Fishing is a key industry for New Zealand. We do it well and sustainably. We have some of the world's most advanced approaches to sustainable fishery management based on strong science," he says.

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