Catch reconstruction report

 16 May 2016

Results from a worldwide study involving the University of Auckland reveal that commercial fishers exploiting New Zealand waters kill more than twice the number fish that are reported to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).



  1. The New Zealand catch reconstruction report, “Reconstruction of marine fisheries catches for New Zealand (1950-2010)”, is part of a global effort to identify the known inaccurate reporting of catches each year.
  2. The research includes excerpts from the Ministry for Primary Industries’ investigative reports exposing widespread and known non-compliance by commercial fishers. These offences were allowed to continue unabated.
  3. In effect, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) turned a blind eye to the mortality of endangered species (dolphins) and serious offences were allowed to escape prosecution. The research concludes that, “misreporting and dumping has been ignored for too long by officials”.
  4. LegaSea has called for a Commission of Inquiry into the dysfunctional Quota Management System and to examine how MPI works.

If New Zealand does have the best and most envied fisheries management system in the world there ought to be no objection to a Commission of Inquiry examining all aspects of commercial fisheries management, compliance issues and public reporting. Anything less retains the odour of a cover-up and business as usual.



  1. New Zealand’s total catch is estimated to be 2.7 times more than what has been reported to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Between 1950-2013 NZ reported 15.3 million tonnes of catch. The report estimates another 24.7 million tonnes were not logged.
  1. Most of the discrepancy is unreported commercial catch and discarded fish.
  1. Recreational and customary catch is estimated to be 0.51 million tonnes, 1.3% of total catch, none of which was reported to the FAO.
  1. Only an estimated 42.5 percent of industrial catch by New Zealand flagged vessels was reported.
  1. Around 42 percent of industrial catch was caught by foreign-flagged vessels, which dominated the catching of hoki, squid, jack mackerels, barracouta and southern blue whiting – some of the largest fisheries and most misreported and discarded species.
  1. Two Ministry investigations, Operation Achilles and Hippocamp, revealed officials decided not to prosecute commercial fishers filmed dumping some or all of their catch overboard.
  1. MPI seems to have granted lawbreakers immunity from prosecution.

NZ Catch Reconstruction Report – Simmons et all – May 11