Global overfishing crisis, coming soon

New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are under scrutiny as The End of the Line, the world’s first major feature documentary revealing the devastating global impacts of overfishing, makes its New Zealand premiere this week.

Lauded at the Sundance film festival as the ‘Inconvenient truth for the oceans’, The End of the Line reveals how commercial fisheries are systematically over-exploiting our oceans for short term profit – and that left unchecked, scientists predict this will cause the global collapse of fish stocks.

New Zealand’s leading marine advocates from Greenpeace, WWF, Forest & Bird and ECO warn that some of New Zealand’s commercial fisheries are part of the global overfishing crisis revealed by the film, and that the full extent of the overfishing crisis in New Zealand is unknown. At the film’s premiere tomorrow (news eds: Thursday) the environmental groups will call for an end to unsustainable fishing in New Zealand’s waters.

“We often hear from the fishing industry and Government that our fisheries are the best managed in the world but as The End of the Line shows, this is because of the dire state of fisheries elsewhere,” they said in a joint press release.

“Since 1950, one in four of the world’s fisheries have collapsed, which means the population is so small it may never recover to its former numbers. Here in New Zealand we are not immune – at least one third of the assessed stocks under the quota management system are defined as depleted or collapsed .

They cited the collapse and closure of three of the eight orange roughy fisheries as an example of QMS failure. They were also critical of the current Ministry of Fisheries proposal to increase the quota for southern bluefin tuna, listed as critically endangered, by 25 per cent when, globally, catches should cease until stocks recover.

“Under the Ministry of Fisheries own Harvest Strategy Standard, this species would already be classified as collapsed and be considered for closure .

“We are calling for the fishing industry and the Government to take an honest look at where our fisheries are heading. They have a responsibility to safeguard our oceans and ensure there is still fish for future generations of Kiwis to eat, by moving to genuinely sustainable methods of fishing, and reducing destructive methods such as bottom trawling and dredging.”

Al Brown, co-owner of the Wellington restaurant Logan Brown, presenter on Hunger For the Wild and author of Go Fish is amongst celebrities attending the NZ premiere. He said: “The End of the Line is a brilliant film. We need to get back to only taking what we need from nature, and this film shows us just how high the stakes are – we could be facing a future without fish. To me, as a fisherman and a chef, that’s unthinkable.”

The New Zealand premiere of The End of the Line starts at 7.15pm, Thursday 4 March, Wellington, The Paramount, Courtenay Place, Wellington

The End of the Line is screening as part of the Documentary Edge Film festival in Auckland this week at 1.15pm, Saturday 6 March 2010, Rialto Cinema, Newmarket, Auckland.