A Greenpeace activist holds an orange roughy. (Photo: Greenpeace/Kate Davison)
Orange roughy could end up on CITES threatened list
Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 03:50 (GMT + 9)
The US Government is considering classifying orange roughy as threatened and making the recommendation to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The classification would mean tighter restrictions on the fishing of the species.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation sent a five-page report to the US urging it to refrain from classifying the species as threatened.
Dr Pamela Mace, ministry principal fisheries science adviser, argues that the species as a whole does not warrant a CITES listing and would not even benefit from it, Radio New Zealand reports.
The ministry estimates there are 140 million adult orange roughy in territorial waters.
"That hardly constitutes a risk of extinction," Mace noted. "There are certainly many, many far more deserving species that require the sorts of protections that a CITES listing offers."
If the CITES classification goes through, New Zealand would have to report regularly to other countries on fish numbers and prove that commercial fishing in its waters will not deplete the species.
In addition, countries that import orange roughy would have to sign documents stating that they are convinced the fish was caught legally and without cruel treatment.
Mace said most of those measures are actually already in place with the Quota Management System (QMS), which limits the amount of orange roughy that can be harvested. The limit is currently 5,000 tonnes a year.
The Deepwater Group, which is made up of quota owners, insists that the QMS is enough to keep the species at sustainable levels.
Conversely, Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell believes the system has failed orange roughy and the species deserves to be on the CITES list because stocks are collapsing worldwide and the US’s concern is widely held.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Karli Thomas said the fact the US is investigating CITES protection shows that governments abroad are questioning New Zealand's management of orange roughy.
The Pew Environment Group is also encouraging the US to make the recommendation, 3 News reports.
Seafood Industry Council (SIC) Spokesperson Alastair Macfarlane commented that because CITES is an agreement to control trade, not to manage fish, putting orange roughy on the list would make no difference in terms of how much is caught. Instead, managing stocks would require reporting on stock numbers and an extra layer of administration.
The US has until October to formally make the recommendation, and CITES would vote on it next March.
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