Purse seine fishing plummeting NZ tuna supply

  • Breaking
  • 16/08/2010

By Michael Morrah

Conservationists are calling on the Government to support the closure of high sea fisheries in the Pacific to industrial fish netting.

Two areas have already been closed because of concerns about illegal fishing and plummeting tuna stocks.

Now island nations are trying to do more to stop the problem.

It is called purse seine fishing, an industrial method that plunders the Pacific of tuna.

The problem is the nets trap juvenile fish and other non-target species like sharks.

In the process of targeting skipjack tuna they kill a lot of the baby big eye and yellow fin which contributes to the overfishing.

The insatiable world demand for tuna has also affected charter operators in New Zealand.

“Twenty years ago out from Whakatane you'd get a thousand yellow fin tuna in a season,” says Andrew grant, owner of Ultimate Charters.

“…these days if you catch one tuna in a season it's a bit of a surprise.”

At the start of this year 2.5 million square miles of international waters were closed to purse seine fishing.

Now there's a push to see a further two areas blocked to an ever increasing number of vessels from Asia, Europe and the US.

“New Zealand has not been able to publicly commit to support this on behalf of the Pacific Island countries. As Greenpeace we are in full support of the closure of these pockets,” says Lagi Toribau, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner.

Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil Heatley says he is happy to consider a proposal.

“We can't commit to it until we see a formal proposal but we are happy to look at a formal proposal,” he says.

New Zealand has four vessels that do purse seine fishing in the Pacific and the Government stands by the practice.

But conservationists say it's unsustainable and the old method of pole fishing is the only fair way to get a catch.

The possibility of closing another two high sea areas will be made in September at the Pacific Tuna Commission

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