New Zealand's main skipjack tuna purse seine fishery has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as being sustainably managed.

The certification covers the Talley’s Group Limited (Talley’s) fleet of two large purse seiners, is valid for five years, and allows skipjack to be sold under MSC's ‘blue tick' of sustainability. 

Talley’s fleet manager Andy Smith said skipjack purse seining in New Zealand waters is an environmentally friendly fishing method in which no fish aggregating devices are used and in which the target species comprises over 98 percent of the catch.  

“The main bycatch species, jack mackerel and blue mackerel, are managed in accordance with New Zealand’s quota management system,” said Smith.

A single protected species, the spine-tailed devil ray, is an occasional bycatch, amounting to around 0.03 percent of the total catch.

The fishery operates over five months from December to April, commencing off the east coast of North Island and then onto the west coast of the North and South Islands, south to Hokitika. 

New Zealand’s fishery occurs at the southern extreme of skipjack’s migratory range and is vulnerable to the effects of cold summers when skipjack availability is reduced. This is reflected in the annual catches which range between 5,000 and 20,000 tonnes. 

“The skipjack catch in New Zealand waters is only a small fraction of the overall annual catch from the Pacific stock of around 1.5 to 2 million tonnes, taken mainly by international purse seiners,” said Smith.

The skipjack stock is assessed to be in a healthy state with the current spawning biomass estimated to be at 48 percent of the estimated spawning biomass that would occur in the absence of fishing.

Skipjack are extremely fast growing and reach sexual maturity in their first year. They spawn throughout the year, whenever local conditions are favourable.

Talley’s will work with MPI's Highly Migratory Species and International Fisheries Management units towards encouraging the management authority to adopt the required management measures, and with MPI scientists and managers towards ensuring that the strategy to mitigate the impact by the fishery on spine-tail devil ray is effective.