Forest & Bird launches updated Best Fish Guide

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Forest & Bird today launched the latest edition of its Best Fish Guide to help New Zealanders choose seafood that is sustainably fished and to ensure we can always put fresh fish on our tables.

The 2012-2013 Best Fish Guide helps consumers play a key role in keeping our oceans healthy and our fishing industry profitable and sustainable into the future.

Forest & Bird’s main concerns about our fisheries are the unsustainable levels of fishing for some species, damaging fishing methods such as bottom trawling, and the unacceptable by-catch of threatened species including New Zealand sea lions, Maui’s dolphins and seabirds, Forest & Bird Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar says.

“Using the Best Fish Guide gives consumers the power to make a change,” she says. “They can put pressure on the big supermarkets to stock more ecologically sustainable seafood. The fishing industry would have to respond by using more sustainable fishing methods. Kiwi consumers can also reduce pressure on the heavily fished species we are most concerned about by using the guide when they shop.”

Katrina Subedar says hoki – New Zealand’s most important commercially fished species – is ranked slightly better in the latest guide. This reflects improving stock levels, but there are still concerns over the environmental impacts of bottom trawling and threatened seabird and fur seal by-catch associated with the fishery.

“Tuna is a great example of the value of the guide. Lots of New Zealanders enjoy tuna, but we need to make the right choices. Southern and Pacific bluefin tuna have one of the worst rankings but albacore and skipjack tuna are better choices,” she says.

The level at which snapper is commercially fished, however, may not be sustainable long-term. “It’s one of the worst-ranked species,” Katrina Subedar says. “We’re deeply concerned at the level at which snapper is being commercially fished, for example, in one region snapper has been fished down to between 8 and 12 per cent of the original population. There are also adverse effects on other marine life from the bottom trawling, and the fact there’s no up-to-date quantitative stock assessment.” Commercial snapper fisheries also hook significant levels of by-catch, including globally threatened black petrels.

The Governor-General, Lt Gen Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, patron of Forest & Bird, gave his support for the guide. He pointed to the deep-seated cultural and economic role of the sea in New Zealand, and said the management of our precious resources within our Exclusive Economic Zone is a “major responsibility”.

“While we often talk of the ‘bounty of the sea’ – it is not a limitless resource,” he says. “The Best Fish Guide raises public awareness of this precious resource, the diversity of kai moana/seafood that is available and helps consumers to make better-informed choices.”

Today, top New Zealand chefs, marine scientists, politicians and industry representatives celebrated the launch of the Best Fish Guide’s fifth edition at Wellington’s Logan Brown restaurant.

Logan Brown head chef and partner Shaun Clouston demonstrated some of the delicious dishes that can be created using sustainable varieties of fish recommended by the Best Fish Guide.

The guide, which is available as a wallet guide, ranks the ecological sustainability of 78 seafood species commercially fished in New Zealand waters. It’s formulated on an ecological assessment totalling close to 200 pages and is based on the latest Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry stock assessments and other public literature. A Best Fish Guide iPhone application will be available shortly.

The phone app includes better alternatives for some unsustainable species in the rankings’ “red zone” according to taste and texture, so home cooks can still follow their favourite seafood recipes. Twelve celebrity chefs have also contributed an original recipe using sustainable seafood.

Forest & Bird plans to extend the guide later this year to include New Zealand’s aquaculture species, such as farmed salmon, mussels and kingfish.

Contact: Marine Conservation Advocate Katrina Subedar (04) 801 2210, 021 426 984,

For a digital version of the assessments report “How sustainable is New Zealand seafood?” or assessment methodology, visit or contact Forest & Bird Communications Officer Jolene Williams (04) 803 1020,

Fast Facts

» More than 1300 commercial fishing vessels fish in New Zealand waters every year

» Every year New Zealand commercial fisheries kill on average:

  • 110-150 Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins
  • 58 dolphins of other species
  • 131 New Zealand sea lions
  • 1060 New Zealand fur seals
  • 14,090 albatrosses
  • 10,000 petrels

» Of the 78 assessed New Zealand commercial fisheries from the Quota Management System:

  • 56% have never had a quantitative stock assessment, and the stock status is unknown
  • 80% have not had a full stock assessment in the past 10 years
  • 42% are over-fished or have experienced substantial stock decline
  • 69% cause habitat damage
  • 60% kill significant numbers of seabirds
  • 62% kill a significant number of marine mammals
  • 71% catch too much non-target fish