World’s largest ship line refuses unsustainable fish

Written By: - Date published: 9:59 am, May 28th, 2010 - 20 comments
Categories: Conservation, food - Tags: , ,

Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, has announced it will no longer transport unsustainably harvested fish. Good on them. It’s not often you see a major corporate using its market power for good, putting the long-term future ahead of short-term profits.

For New Zealand, this means Maersk will no longer transport our orange roughy, not that many people want to buy it any more with supermarkets in Canada, the US, and the UK banning it.

In just 30 years, we have reduced the population of orange roughy by up to 90%. The quotas are still too high to high to stop population decline and the fishers exceed them year after year. That’s theft from our future but for some reason I can’t work out, they are allowed to remain in business and they don’t go to jail. A kid steals a car and he goes to jail, a fishing company breaks the law and brings a valuable natural resource to the brink of extinction and they’re heroes.

Orange roughy are extremely long-lived (up to 150 years) and slow breeding – the damage we’ve caused cannot be quickly undone. And the fish are caught by destructive bottom-trawling which is doing untold damage to the rest of the deepsea ecology.

Successive governments have done too little to bring the industry into line. Hopefully, Maersk’s leadership will be the wake up call that’s needed.

20 comments on “World’s largest ship line refuses unsustainable fish”

  1. kaplan 1

    I’ve not had particularly warm feelings for Maersk due to the way they restructured their NZ operations after taking over P&O Nedlloyd.
    That said, this is a good move, hopefully others will follow and turn their sights to other products as well.

  2. uke 2

    Good one, now how about a ban on transporting environmentally-unsustainable dairy products?

    • Armchair Critic 2.1

      Or even just a ban on importing environmentally unsustainable palm kernel extract, which is used as a feed for the dairy cows that make the unsustainable dairy products.

  3. Bill 3

    Once upon a time in a land far, far away…

    stevedores had the power to halt the transportation of certain goods simply by refusing to handle them. It still happens to an extent, but if you want unsustainably logged exotic timbers and the products made from them neither imported nor exported; if you want kernal extract to be untransportable…and otherwise want a conciousness spanner thrown in the works of profitable extraction/production/distribution systems/networks, then waiting for individual capitalist companies to treat profit as anything other than the prime consideration is going to lead to a long, long wait…“Maersk had made it clear it no longer needed its business” So no threat to profit there then. And if you ain’t rolling in the aisles yet, then how about the niggling detail that“orders were often taken electronically for “frozen fish”, meaning the company did not always know which species it was transporting.”

    And we know that consumerism is not able to be the engine of change.

    But if workers occupying key locations in the scheme of things flex their muscle…I mean, fuck Atlas and his shrug of cluelessness. That’s not where power lies.

    But then, how to head off an abuse of new found power by those workers in key positions once the power they have is being realised? In other words, how to broaden and deepen democratic practice and aspirations so as to avoid the creation of new unaccountable centres of power rising as replacements to the present market based capitalist actors?

    • uke 3.1

      Your assessment Bill is pretty on. I also suspect there may be some kind of international fishing-industry skullduggery going on here. You could apply the “unsustainable” argument to a lot of cargo.

      As for creating new and democratically-unaccountable power bases, you have a point. When the mafia got into the US transport union movements they went a bit sideways.

      Perhaps a solution would be for humanity to simply lessen their reliance on international trade?

  4. havoc 4

    This is pure spin. It\’s actually got everything to do with the difficulty in carrying the seafood volumes during peak seasons . For 3-4 months a year container ships from NZ/Aust to Europe/USA are full and can\’t carry all the cargo. The rest of the year they can\’t fill em. Fish as a cargo is problematic for shipping cos – all dependent on catch/weather makes it hard to plan for. take it from someone who worked for these guys. It\’s spin!!! Meat is far greater volume and easier to plan around. Believe me, if they wanted this cargo they would be taking it!

  5. Pepeketua 5

    With regard to NZ’s unsustainable fisheries. i picked this up after a great blog from Steve Logan (of Logan Brown restaurant) on why they try to choose sustainable fish.—The-man-behind-the-eponomous-Logan-B/Choosing-a-Good-Fish.aspx

    One of the comments (from Kirstie Knowles) states:
    “Whilst New Zealand does have a well respected quota management system (QMS), much of the praise is based on the theoretical system. In practise the QMS is failing our marine resources on a number of fronts:
    1) Of the 628 fish stocks managed under the QMS, we have enough information to determine status of stock for just 117 stocks. In other words we have no idea if the catch limits for over 80% of our fish stocks are appropriate or not. To quote senior NIWA fisheries scientist Dr John McKoy, New Zealand fisheries management is “essentially guesswork”.

    2) To quote Dr McKoy again, our fisheries management is “highly susceptible to influence”. It operates in an extremely political environment in which industry advocates have enormous influence over research and management decision making. In the last year over 4 core projects have been developed behind closed doors between the fishing industry and the Ministry of Fisheries. Recreational, customary and environmental interests have been completely left out…”

    that first point is shocking!

  6. Croc 6

    Marty, do you realise that most of the fish in NZ is caught by bottom trawling? And that commercial fishers have bottom trawled the same grounds for at least thirty years and they still manage to catch a lot of fish?

  7. jcuknz 7

    MARTY .. did you not hear the bow out punchline on TV3 tonight? Maersk are reported as saying they will carry fish harvested according to NZ regulations. That seems to make our cheers quite unjustified …. the small print dam it 🙁

  8. Wayne McNee 8

    It seems the original press release from Greenpeace was not based on any factual information. Maersk has confirmed it has not changed its policies and will continue to carry all fish caught under New Zealand’s world leading quota management system. Wayne McNee, Chief Executive, Ministry of Fisheries, New Zealand.

  9. Pepeketua 9

    What a shame Wayne, considering that orange roughy is an incredibly unsustainable fishery. can someone please tell me how we ‘manage’ fisheries, when we don’t have any science on 80% of those fisheries? is it really ‘guesswork’ as the NIWA scientist has said…?

  10. Santi 10

    Greenpeace, the eco-terrorists, lying again. Surprise, surprise.

    • felix 10.1

      Can you define eco-terrorist please?

      And then can you explain how greenpeace fits the definition?

      Thanks in advance.

  11. Santi 11

    Simple. By its actions supporting crooks like Bethune, the about-to-be-convicted pirate who rammed the Japanese boat, by supporting the trespassers of private property chaining themselves for “martyrdom”, by supporting invaders against palm oil. Enough proof already.

    Greenpeace is an eco-terrorist organisation.

    • felix 11.1

      But you haven’t defined “eco-terrorist”.

      You’ve just said you think greenpeace is one, but I already knew you thought that.

      I’m wondering what the word actually means.

      • Santi 11.1.1

        Eco-terrorism usually refers to acts of terrorism, violence or sabotage committed in support of ecological, environmental, or animal rights causes against persons or their property.

        Eco-terrorism is defined as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.”

        • felix

          “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature…”

          I find it difficult to see how that relates to greenpeace. Any examples of greenpeace using or threatening violence?

  12. Santi 12

    If you support / abet an eco-terrorist, you are an eco-terorist yourself. Greenpeace does exactly that.
    Ask the pirate Bethune about who pays his bills.

    • felix 12.1

      Why don’t you tell me who pays Peter Bethune’s bills? Sounds like you know an awful lot about greenpeace that you’re not prepared to actually say.

      If you have some examples of “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature”, please share. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would like to know about them.

  13. Bill 13

    Sorry to butt in, but I’d have thought any meaningful definition of eco terrorism would have couched matters in terms f the terror brought to bear upon eco-systems etc.

    So that BP in the Gulf would be guilty of an act of eco-terrorism for example.

    Is there any other instance of terrorism being defined by the motivations of the perpetrators? As I sit here I can’t think of any. It’s all just terrorism. And then some defining feature of the perpetrators or location might be added as a separate and secondary consideration.

    So, Irish terrorism is terrorism in Ireland carried out by whoever, no? So eco-terrorism is terrorism in the ecosystem carried out by whoever, yes?

    Is it possible for the eco-system to carry out an act of terror? An Irish person can carry out an act of terror….an Irish terrorist. But can the eco-system carry out an act of terror, an eco-terrorist? Doesn’t make any sense, does it? So eco-terrorism can only refer to those acts perpetrated upon the eco-system that might be considered as equating in some way or other to terror against human populations.

    Or is there another word for that?

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