Cowboys, characters and ultimately redemption are at the heart of a new book detailing the journey of the world’s largest orange roughy fishery.
Roughy on the Rise charts the turnaround of the New Zealand fishery from the discovery of the mysterious deepwater fish, its exploitation, depiction by environmental organisations as the epitome of unsustainable fishing to its key role in bankrolling the development of the New Zealand seafood industry.
The book was written by Tim Pankhurst, former editor of the Dominion Post and now chief executive of Seafood New Zealand.
Pankhurst said the controversies and triumphs of the fishery made the book an interesting undertaking.
* NZ’s most controversial fishery deemed sustainable
* Orange roughy fishery collapse continuues
* Sealord finds new orange roughy stocks
“I agreed to write the story on condition it was a no-holds-barred account of this vital part of New Zealand’s maritime history. The 1980s saw a gold rush on the high seas and the fishery was so lucrative it bankrolled the development of the New Zealand seafood industry,” Pankhurst said.
“So much roughy was being caught that vessels were sunk in the process.”
Nelson’s role in the fishery featured heavily in the book, from industry leaders like Sir Peter Talley and Charles Hufflett, through to local fishing identities such as Craig Boote, the Connolly family.
The book contained a host of photos detailing the history of orange roughy, including the massive catches that were pulled in during the 1980s and 1990s.
Lighter moments included New Zealand Security Intelligence Service’s “bumbling” interest in Soviet vessels, to Hollywood name-checks of the fish species in TV shows like Dallas and Friends.
The book also makes room for several orange roughy recipes.
After a decline of stocks through over-fishing in the 1980s, the fishery recovered to eventually gain the global gold standard of sustainability by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in December last year.
The MSC certification follows two years of review and assessment by an independent team of experts. Orange roughy joins New Zealand’s fisheries for hake, ling, hoki, southern blue whiting, and albacore tuna as being MSC certified as sustainable.
However, WWF, which was instrumental in setting up the certification body, expressed its disappointed that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of New Zealand’s orange roughy fishery has been upheld despite objections raised.
Other organisations to condemn the MSC certification included the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC), New Zealand NGO ECO, Bloom Associates and Greenpeace.
Chief executive of Deepwater Group George Clement says the return of orange roughy to a sustainable fishery had taken two decades of dedicated work by the industry.
“It has been a long and challenging process. In the late 1990s it was clear that we needed to start from scratch to gain as we attempted to gain reliable, scientific data on the roughy stocks to establish the sustainable yields and to put in place a management system that allowed the stocks to rebuild in size.
“During the eighties, we were taking 54,000 tonnes of roughy at the peak – today the total allowable commercial catch (TACC) is 8700 tonnes, and 6000 tonnes of that is from MSC certified fisheries. The difference is a solid industry commitment to sustainable fishing.”
Speaking at the book launch in Wellington last month Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy acknowledged the work put into rebuilding this fishery.
“To now have it recognised as sustainable by an independent, international body is worth celebrating, ” he said.
“We have learnt a lot from mistakes made in those days. Since then scientific research has given us better information and new fisheries technology has helped this fishery to rebuild.”