Fishing industry cuts West Coast hoki quota by 22 percent

Morning Talk 27/09/2018
Photo: Youtube.

You’ve most likely been served hoki at a local fish and chip shop, with the common species even used in McDonald’s infamous Filet-O-Fish.

But there is serious concern for the country’s biggest and most important fishery.

A recent Newshub investigation revealed West Coast skippers fishing in the hoki ground are struggling to find and catch the fish.

As a result, the industry has decided to voluntarily give up millions of dollars’ worth of quota.

"What industry skippers are noticing is that in one area in the West Coast, the fish are not turning up in the numbers expected,” Te Ohu Kaimoana (Māori Fisheries Trust) chief executive Dion Tuuta told Newshub.

"This is a significant undertaking by the industry," says Mr Tuuta. "It's going to cost them millions."

Hoki is used in McDonald's Fillet-O-Fish burger.

There are five hoki grounds in New Zealand. According to the industry, four are still fishing well - but the massive West Coast fishery is not.

"The action at the moment is precautionary, and we welcome that. The industry's taking ownership of their interests in the fishery," Stuart Anderson, director of fishing management at the Ministry for Primary Industry (MPI), told RadioLIVE.

It is relatively uncommon for fishing giants to surrender quota, but in this case, 22 percent of the West Coast quota has been cut as a precaution.

"Next year, if we see a problem, absolutely we will make further reductions ahead of the next season," Mr Anderson said.

Newshub understands the NIWA vessel Tangaroa recently surveyed hoki grounds and also found problems.

Mr Anderson told RadioLIVE that population fluctuations do happen, with the last major decline occurring in the mid-2000s.

“Since then, stock has generally been rebuilding and has been quite steady over the last few years. This is the first year we’re seen potentially some differences there.”

Greenpeace has directed the blame at industry itself, while Te Ohu Kaimoana (which represents iwi fishing interests) blames climate change.

"We have noticed some warmer water temperatures this season, but we are waiting for the science to catch up and tell us what is going on out there," Mr Tuuta said.

The quota cuts are expected to cost the industry at least $8 million, which could also mean less choice at the local fish shop.

The industry says it's possible further cuts will be made in the future.

Listen to the full interview with Stuart Anderson above. 

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