New Zealand is a global leader in fisheries management, the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said in Wellington this week.

New Zealand is a global leader in fisheries management, the London-based Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) said in Wellington this week.

Speaking at an inaugural Sustainable Seafood Day at Te Papa, MSC Oceania programme director Anne Gabriel advised 74 percent of New Zealand’s deepwater fisheries now meet its demanding sustainable fishing standard “which shows leadership and commitment to safeguarding the oceans for future generations”.

New Zealand hoki was the first whitefish fishery in the world to meet the MSC sustainable fishing standard, in 2001.

A scientific assessment process which can take 12-18 months is undertaken independently by a third party auditor.

Hoki has since been certified twice more and has been joined by seven other species – hake, ling, southern blue whiting, albacore tuna, orange roughy, skipjack tuna and Antarctic toothfish.

The MSC event with the theme Forever Wild included industry leaders, officials, scientists and NGOs and was launched by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.

He said the new agency Fisheries New Zealand had been established to sharpen the lens on fisheries and improve relationships with iwi and other stakeholders to build trust in management and sustainability.

“These certifications underpin New Zealand’s reputation for well-managed, sustainable fisheries and the recognition of Brand New Zealand worldwide,” he said.

“New Zealanders expect our fisheries to be sustainably managed and need to have trust and confidence in how this is done.”

Nash also confided he had a new title – “Jacinda’s little helper”.

That was the description his four-year-old daughter had supplied when someone asked what her father did.

He also referred to critics, “very bold behind their keyboards”, one of whom suggested he deserved to be at the bottom of Hawke’s Bay in concrete boots.

Nash made contact with the person and they ended up as mates.

He put that down to the power of communication, of sitting down and talking issues through.

“We won’t always agree but New Zealand works well when we get out and consult.”

In a subsequent panel discussion Gabriel said New Zealand has a fantastic story to tell.

A study conducted by independent research company Globescan on behalf of MSC has confirmed New Zealander's strong support for sustainable fisheries.

Ocean pollution, such as plastics, was the highest perceived threat to ocean health, followed by concerns over overfishing and illegal fishing.

NIWA principal fisheries scientist Dr Matt Dunn added the role of science is to change opinion into fact.

If we have a sustainable fishery then people should believe we have science behind it, he said.

He came to New Zealand from the UK 16 years ago because of the fisheries management reputation this country had, which it had maintained.

“Things that are bad here are still very very good by European standards. There is a fundamental clash between nations in Europe. New Zealand is thankfully removed from that race to fish.”

Sanford chief executive Volker Kuntzsch, who worked for Unilever when MSC was established, said the industry was always being told about the bad things it did when it could be proud of where it was at in comparison with the rest of the world.

Deepwater Group chief executive George Clement said later the draft reports on the re-assessments of the hake, hoki, ling and southern blue whiting fisheries had been released for public comment this month.

The assessors had concluded that all of these fisheries should be re-certified without remedial conditions.

“This places these fisheries in the top four percent of the best performing fisheries in the world.”