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The remarkable turnaround in the orange roughy fishery was celebrated this week.

Marine Stewardship Council certification of three major orange roughy fisheries on the Chatham Rise and Challenger Plateau was a great success story, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy told guests at a function at Wellington’s Boatshed.

“A huge amount of work has gone into rebuilding this fishery over the years by industry and successive governments,” he said.

“To now have it recognised as sustainable by an independent, international body is worth celebrating.

“The certification follows two years of review and assessment by an independent team of experts.

“Many international markets are now demanding MSC certification as a baseline requirement, so to have this for such a valuable export fish stock is extremely important. This is the sixth species to achieve MSC certification.

“It shows our Quota Management System is flexible and effective and helps support the global reputation of New Zealand as being committed to developing sustainable fisheries.

"MSC certification sends a message to consumers here and around the world that this is a premium product harvested with care.”

The council was set up in 1997 to address the problem of unsustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future.

Its vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life and it accords its blue MSC label to fisheries demonstrating sustainable practices across a wide range of criteria.

The certification of orange roughy is one of the biggest news stories in the fishing industry ever, according to MSC regional director Asia Pacific Patrick Caleo.

“Few fisheries around the world have sparked such controversy or had such a bad reputation as orange roughy,” he told guests.

“It is the classic story of boom, bust and redemption.

“The roughy story in New Zealand is an amazing story of improvement and one that I am very keen to tell. And also one that I am very keen to defend.

“Ten percent of the world’s fisheries are MSC certified, an amazing achievement, but there is so much work to do yet.

“A lot of the world’s fisheries are in bad shape. We need more examples like roughy to inspire fisheries around the world to do better.

“You guys in New Zealand do get a hard time and you seem to have been getting a particularly bad time of late. Do you know why? It is because everyone expects you to be the best in the world at this stuff. The New Zealand public, your consumers and conservation groups all expect you guys to be the best. And when I listen to you all speak, you have the same expectation of yourselves.

“New Zealand fisheries are doing well. Seventy five percent of deepwater fisheries landing – 50 percent of the total New Zealand catch – are certified, a pretty amazing achievement.”

Darren Lovell, chef and owner of Queenstown seafood reastaurant Fishbone, said he had done his own research after his menu looked like a red-lined list of endangered species, according to Forest & Bird’s guide.

Among his discoveries was that fisheries in North America were adapting the New Zealand quota system and were now seeing their fish stocks increase.

“I learnt that fishing uses no water, no pesticides, no fertiliser and causes no soil erosion.

“I learnt that you guys are constantly in the firing line, often vilified by green groups who keep telling us over and over again not to eat fish.

“No longer was I drowning in a sea of guilt, but riding a wave of enthusiasm for our seafood industry.

“If you care about the New Zealand environment, you should drink less flat whites and eat more orange roughy.”

Guests did just that, sampling carpaccio-style roughy, hoki sliders, pickled tuna, hake rillete, ling tacos and skewered toothfish, all MSC certified.

The function doubled as the launch of a book, Roughy on the Rise, that details the history of the fishery and the characters involved.

The book includes extended interviews with skippers and crews, scientists, observers, officials and politicians seeking to manage a lucrative fishery that underpinned the development of the modern fishing fleet and is worth $60 million in annual exports.

To purchase a copy, visit seafood.co.nz/shop