Seafood New Zealand has reacted to today’s Government announcement about consulting on proposals to dramatically restrict trawling and Danish seining in the Hauraki Gulf. The industry body says it wants a stronger focus on the health of the Gulf generally, but warns that the consultation process risks being ineffective if people do not understand how these fishing methods really work.

Dr Jeremy Helson, CEO of Seafood New Zealand says some commercial methods are misunderstood and their effects mischaracterised. “We as an industry take some responsibility for that lack of understanding but we are trying to help explain and educate people about how commercial fishing works and how different types of fishing work. We need the science to come through and really be listened to. For our part, commercial fishers want and need a healthy Hauraki Gulf and we are stepping up to play our part in that.”

Bottom trawling is a fishing method that is used to catch more than 70% of New Zealand’s commercially-caught fish.  Most trawling is done over sandy, muddy surfaces in well-established fishing grounds. Dr Helson says in the Hauraki Gulf, fishers are already limiting their fishing to grounds where they have fished for many years. “We manage to work within the considerable restrictions already in place on commercial fishing, to provide fish for Aucklanders and beyond. We are keen adopters of new technologies and that’s why our fishing methods keep improving.  We want that trend to continue, through the Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan.

“Anyone submitting to the Hauraki Gulf consultation that opens tomorrow should know that fishers are as focused on a healthy Gulf as any and every other stakeholder. They care deeply about the environment in which they work. To really improve the health of this precious part of Aotearoa, we need to face the really hard stuff – the impact of climate change, run-off from the land, risk from invasive pest species and the sheer volume of use by a growing population that the Gulf experiences.  Commercial fishing can’t do all the heavy lifting on this work.  It needs to involve everyone who cares about our big blue backyard.

“Moving the fishing effort outside the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park means more fuel use and increased costs which means fish could become less accessible to New Zealanders. It could have other unintended consequences that don’t actually help achieve a healthier Gulf.

“We have worked faithfully for many years with Government and with other partners in the mission to protect the Hauraki Gulf and we will continue to do so. We ask that access to fish for New Zealanders and respect for the science be considered by everyone who is contemplating submitting as part of the Government’s consultation process.”

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Fiona MacMillan
GM Communications
Seafood New Zealand
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 021 513 522

Key facts about bottom trawling

  • Commercial fishing’s footprint is becoming progressively lighter, with some fleets half of what they were in the Gulf in 2022 compared to 2005, for example.
  • Fisheries New Zealand knows at 10 minute intervals the position of all commercial vessels in the Gulf. Each fishing event must be recorded for every fish caught and reported within 8 hours and every protected species interaction within 24 hours.
  • Monitoring shows fishers return to the same areas to fish, where plentiful stocks are known to exist.
  • In the trawling areas, the scale of change can be less than the natural fluctuations from storms and significantly less than the impacts seen recently from the cyclones with their ability to transport vast quantities of sediment and related contaminants into marine near-shore ecosystems. The impact of trawling on the whole Gulf is limited and is not destroying new untouched areas because fishers don’t fish there.
  • Inshore trawlers and Danish seiners operate with light nets over soft seabed sediment forms – sand, gravel, mud, shell – they don’t fish on rocky ground or reefs which contain fish they don’t want to catch and are more prone to damaging their nets. Areas of high biodiversity are most commonly associated with reefs and are areas not trawled by commercial finfish operators. The areas of trawling and high biodiversity value are spatially separate.
  • Fishers do not fish where they know juvenile fish are to be found
  • To reduce and avoid unwanted catch, net heights, mesh sizes and orientation has changed significantly over the last 10 years with many trawlers now using either 150mmT90 or on the square mesh and changing their net heights according to their target species.