18 Dec 2008

Swordfish catches rise and elude long-term deal in Pacific

4:30 pm on 18 December 2008

New Zealand says only a one-year agreement on limiting swordfish catches in the Western and Central Pacific was able to be reached as the annual meeting of the Tuna Commission.

Restrictions in waters near New Zealand and stretching to the east on the number of Spanish vessels failed to limit the catch.

It has gone from about 700 tonnes in 2004 to more than 4,000 three years later.

The head of New Zealand's delegation at the meeting in South Korea, Matthew Hooper, says negotiations were severely hampered after new information, quadrupling earlier catch sizes, was revealed by the European Community at the last minute:

"Catches that are four times higher than those previously reported and by the fleet that is catching by far the largest amount of swordfish in the region, it does completely undermine the science that is being carried out by Australia and New Zealand and others at considerable expense I might add and it does undermine our ability to put in place effective measures based on that science."

The head of New Zealand's delegation at the recent Tuna Commission meeting in South Korea, Matthew Hooper.