New information on important fishery

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A new study into under-size snapper caught in the Snapper 1 area shows encouraging results, but there is more work to be done.

The report found that commercial fishers caught 144 tonnes of undersized snapper in the Snapper 1 area – about 3% of the total commercial catch – in the year ending February 2015. The area stretches from the top of the North Island to the Bay of Plenty and is one of New Zealand’s most important fisheries.

“This new information tells us that the amount of catch of undersize fish is very small relative to the overall sustainable harvest from the fishery (8,050 tonnes) and the number of snapper overall,” says Inshore Fisheries Manager Steve Halley.

“This level of catch is well within the 450 tonne allocation for other sources of fishing related mortality and does not create a sustainability concern for the fishery. But that doesn’t mean we are satisfied. There are real benefits to reducing the number of small snapper caught by all sectors and we are working hard with all sectors to develop new and innovative ways to do that as part of the plan for snapper.”

The initiative to record the amount of incidental undersized snapper catch was one of a number of actions that came out of the last review of the way the Snapper 1 fishery is managed. It is part of a wider programme evolving the fisheries management framework to ensure it remains effective.

The initiative will add to the already robust reporting and monitoring system in place within New Zealand fisheries to continue to ensure sustainable fisheries for current and future generations.

This includes legal requirements to report catch, backed up by independent monitoring and scientific analysis. All this information informs scientific assessments of our fisheries that underpins all of the Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI's) management decisions.

“Information is the bedrock of our fisheries management approach, and we’re continually improving the amount and quality of information we gather,”

“As part of that MPI last year began gathering this data on the amount of undersized snapper being caught and released by commercial fishers in the Snapper 1 area.

“The additional information on snapper will add to data we have been collecting routinely from commercial, recreational and customary fishers to help inform our scientific assessment processes and management of this important fishery.

“Everyone who uses this important fishery has a responsibility of care, and there are some excellent initiatives currently underway to ensure the fishery is well looked after. Industry, together with Government, is investing in a multi-million dollar programme to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of trawl gear, and have implemented a “move on” rule where fishing vessels shift locations if they catch too many small fish.

“For its part, the recreational sector has been focusing on educating people on avoiding areas where small fish are found, using larger hooks, and being careful releasing small fish back to the water to improve their chance of surviving.

“More generally, MPI is looking to invest in new monitoring and reporting technology to ensure we are gathering all possible information on commercial fishing activity. With support from industry this monitoring technology has already been trialled in Snapper 1. MPI is looking now to expand its use across all commercial fishing vessels to improve the quantity and quality of information we have to manage our fisheries.”

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