Each day during the month of April, the Institute will feature one of the 30 ‘perspectives’ from the One Ocean report. These short articles include a diverse range of views regarding oceans management in New Zealand. Enjoy!
Dr Malcolm Clark, Principal Scientist (Deepwater Fisheries), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
The impacts of fishing
Internationally, commercial fishing has a poor environmental reputation. Overfishing of target species, seabird bycatch on longlines, drowning of marine mammals near the surface in nets, bycatch of unwanted species in trawl fisheries and damage to the seafloor by heavy bottom trawl gear are often in the media. The nature and extent of these types of impacts can be severe and the effects long lasting. In New Zealand the Quota Management System (QMS) introduced in 1986 has done much to reduce the impact of overfishing on target and bycatch species. However, there are still valid concerns about wider environmental impacts, such as from the extensive use of bottom trawls in regions where fish aggregate over sensitive habitats or from where fisheries interact with vulnerable or protected species.
New Zealand fisheries legislation underpins efforts to manage significant adverse impacts and to adopt an ‘ecosystem approach’ to fisheries. Over the last 15 years, government and industry cooperation, increasingly informed by science, has resulted in progressive development of mitigation measures, codes of practice and no-fishing areas. However, fishing remains one of the main human activities utilising New Zealand’s ocean space, and much more research is required to improve our understanding of fisheries effects on the structure and function of marine ecosystems. Given the size of the EEZ, the required commitment is large and will take time. Ultimately, for the long-term sustainability of our oceans, a comprehensive ecosystem approach, including tools like spatial management, is needed to ensure that resource uses (such as those of recreational and commercial fishing, mining and tourism) are integrated and balanced with conservation objectives.