THE alarming news that China will soon complete the building of 250 new 100-tonne long liners to fish around our Exclusive Economic Zone and the western Pacific sends shudders through me.
I understand the Chinese government is funding the whole fleet and will pay the crews, for the fuel, and own all the fish caught. Nothing is more alarming!
The implications are horrendous for those who have enjoyed a reasonably-managed marlin fishery within New Zealand’s economic zone.
Already yellow fin tuna migrations have virtually ended through overfishing at a time our domestic long line fleet is at its highest registered numbers.
Another problem is the targeting of tuna with Fish Aggregating Devices. But this is a small threat compared to what the up-and-coming superpower intends to do in our backyard.
Because our visiting, highly-migratory species such as marlin and tuna must travel outside and then through our EEZ, this massive new Chinese pressure on migrating pelagics can only be the “beginning of the end”.
Effectively, macramé walls of long line barriers will be run where the fish must pass. This is no different to many, many miles of drift nets preventing the flow of historical pelagic fish migrations.
I have heard mumblings from those who, in good faith, helped fund satellite tagging of our marlin. The data showed conclusive pathways that marlin have used for eternity.
The science and knowledge gained this way is now being questioned as to “what value” or what the “costs/benefits” were to us. It seems it is just helping the commercial long line fleets, such as of newcomer China, and is of little benefit to our game fishers in New Zealand.
Was it a horrendous blunder to broadcast our findings for the benefit of the commercial industry?
China has, for some time, been helping some Pacific Islands financially — some of which may welcome the Chinese long liners into their waters. These short-lived dollars will benefit those supported Pacific nations but will surely be unsustainable long term.
While this message may be declared “alarmist” by our friend Gareth Morgan (whom I personally respect), I believe this threat from China will bring doomsday to a relatively-stressed and partly-abundant fishery, particularly for the marlin fishery which is very prone to overfishing.
It was not that long ago that a marlin in New Zealand waters was a rare recreational catch. It will surely be a sad day for those who love game fishing around New Zealand to soon see a drastic falling abundance.
China is immensely powerful and to have 250 100-tonners launched, setting millions of miles and multi-millions of hooks is the worst news possible.
I believe many errors have been made in the management of highly-migratory species. Broadbill, for one, is no longer classified as by-catch. It can be targeted commercially in our waters, contrary to the agreement with Fisheries Minister Colin Moyle. The commercial moratorium on landing billfish, dead or alive, inside our EEZ was good — but who will ultimately benefit from the fish we have put back in the water?
Tuna such as yellow fin, big eye and blue fin are in serious trouble, so what can be done? It’s all bad news indeed.
The China issue was revealed and discussed at the recent NZ Recreational Fishing Council AGM. A letter is on its way to the Government to see what it might be able to do. Make inquiries on extending our EEZ zone?
Would China listen to minnow New Zealand? Methinks not. If Japan can get away with claiming “scientific” reasons to kill whales, a loophole, what show do we have with China?