NEW ZEALAND – Mystery surrounds press reports last night that after prolonged appeals from Green interests Maersk, the largest container shipping line in the world, apparently announced yesterday it would not carry certain cargoes of at risk marine species particularly the curiously named Orange Roughy, a staple catch for many deep sea trawlers and the first ever fish to appear on neighbouring Australia’s endangered species list.
Maersk carry around 40% of New Zealand’s ocean freight cargoes and fish is a major export for the country with the Roughy making up about 17% of the nations overall catch. Other prohibited cargoes were said to include shark and whale meat plus selected toothfish varieties. The Fisheries Ministry claim that stocks are sustainably managed but the annual catch has crashed since the deep water trawling techniques were first developed in the 1970’s.
Now the Ministry claim the media reports were incorrect and that “Maersk is reviewing its policy on the transportation of fish and the Ministry of Fisheries is happy to provide input into this process”, according to Chief Executive Wayne McNee, who continued, “The Ministry of Fisheries manages all New Zealand’s fisheries closely to make sure catches are sustainable and it is important to us to make sure that fish will be available for future generations, we will not hesitate to take decisive management action to make sure that happens.”
Last year the Orange Roughy export trade brought in over NZ$51 million according to the Seafood Industry Council but world markets have been moving geographically for the vendors after a ban was introduced on fish sales in the US and UK markets. Deep sea fish have much longer development than faster pelagic species. The Orange Roughy lives well over a century and has a sedentary lifestyle with a similarly prolonged development of sexual maturity. Fish of this type take far longer to recover stock levels than their faster shallow water cousins, many of whom have also been heavily overfished hence the development of deep water techniques.
With the fishing industry reportedly worth almost NZ$1.5 billion per annum Maersk may have made a serious enemy in the nations fifth largest export shippers if they decide they should go ahead with the ban but consumer pressure counts and, in a country with an actively green agenda, it will be no surprise if some of Maersk’s competitors join them in any prohibition.
Fisheries spokesmen claim quotas in place are sufficient to preserve stocks but this is hotly disputed by Greenpeace and numerous marine experts. No one was available in Maersk’s New Zealand offices for comment at the time of going to press.
To learn more about the dangers of deep sea trawling for the Orange Roughy and similar species you can view a video on the vulnerability of deep-sea fishes: an interview with Dr. Gregor Cailliet here.