What’s inside the book

Peak FishWhy you should read this book

Gone are the days where the ocean was able to provide limitless food and hide all our waste. As you can see from the chart below, the world has hit “Peak Fish”.

We have to think urgently about how we manage our impact on the oceans, before we damage it beyond repair. That needs to start with fishing.

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So what are some of the problems

Fishing is only one of the impacts we have on the ocean – All around the world the ocean is in trouble. It is no longer able to serve the many roles we have come to expect. Fishing, climate change, acidification and run-off (of soil, nutrients and pollution) are conspiring to create complete ecosystem collapse with the formation of apocalyptic sounding “dead zones”.

New fishing dead zones Cumulative fishing dead zones

Freedom in the Commons brings ruin to all – technology and the “race to fish” has devastated world fish stocks in recent years, particularly big fish. Scientists disagree on the scale of damage but it is pretty safe to say there has been a 70% reduction in world fish stocks in the last 50 years. Do that again over the next 50 years and we’re down to 9% of the global fishery as it was in in 1960 – not that far from an ocean of mud and worms.

We need to manage our fisheries – Sadly only 7% of the global coastal areas are subject to an effective form of management, so in many places the plunder continues. We need a 50-75% reduction in fishing capacity to halt the plunder. Not only would this reduce fishing costs but we would also end up catching more fish, in total this change would be a $50 billion bonus to the world economy.

Twenty-five years ago, our bold action led the world – We took steps to manage our commercial fishery, and thanks to our small population and isolation this bold action was in time to save our fishery. New Zealand is still quite unique in having an internationally competitive, profitable and unsubsidised fishing industry. These days we have slipped to 8th best regime in the select world of managed fisheries.

This came at some cost – The privatisation of our fishery benefitted a few at the expense of the many. The Maori settlement went some way to redress this balance. But you could rightly say the privatisation of the commercial fishery in New Zealand was the greatest plunder of a people’s property in this land since Europeans stole Maori lands.

There are lingering problems  – The fishery management job we started twenty-five years ago is not yet complete. The wider impacts environmental impacts of fishing are not being managed well. And there is still a race to fish in our inshore fisheries because commercial and recreational fishers are competing to catch the same fish. This leads to occasional spats between sectors but more importantly hurts inshore stocks.

Action is needed again – The tragedy of the commons is still unravelling before our very eyes. We all like having the right to do what we want, when we want, where we want on the ocean, but if we don’t act to limit our impact then there won’t be anything left to enjoy except jellyfish.

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blinkers-352x542Introduction: The Hook

Chapter One – Where Are The Best Fishing Spots? – where fish get their food – nutrient cycling – how nutrients get back to the surface for plankton to use – El Niño and La Niña – coral reefs.

Chapter Two: Plunder on the High Seas – mankind’s uses of the ocean – runoff of nutrients, soil and pollution – destruction of coastal habitat – climate change – acidification and breakdown of calcium carbonates (shells) – what this all means for fishing – algal blooms and dead zones.

Chapter Three: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish – a short history of fishing and fishing methods – impact of industrialised fishing – peak fish – an ocean of mud and worms? – tragedy of the commons – maximum sustainable yield – why most fisheries boom and bust.

Chapter Four: Te Ika A Māui: A History of Kiwi Fishing Management – Before the Exclusive Economic Zone gave us control – towards the Quota Management System – QMS teething problems: how to hand out quota ‘fairly’; when commerce and science go bad – orange roughy; Treaty claims – Māori customary fishing – recreational fishing

Chapter Five – Howzit Goin’? – evaluating the QMS – economic success – fish stocks OK but problems with bycatch and trawling – equity issues; privatisation is a bonanza for some, alienation for others – management issues, poachers and foreign charter vessels.

Chapter Six – Trawling for Answers – we push fish stocks to the limit on the basis of little knowledge: need for caution – wider impacts of fishing on the ecosystem – habitat damage from trawling – fishing raises risk of ecosystem collapse & dead zones.

Chapter Seven: Rec Fishing – The One That Got Away – rec fishers have a big impact on fish and the environment – current restrictions are ineffectual – ongoing scraps with commercial fishing overshadow the need to increase fish stocks – licensing fees and Option Four – NZ rec fishing rules behind those in Australia and the US.

Chapter Eight: Get Reel Consumers – pity the fish outside EEZ’s – Omega 3 at any cost – Kiwis’ over-eat fish – can labelling give consumers power to stop the pillage? – Marine Stewardship Council – should we eat tuna, prawns and hoki? – aquaculture and the harm it does to wild fish stocks.


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