This final research report presents on the requirements of Project DOC09305/ INT2008-02: To identify samples of corals returned through the CSP observer programme during the 2008/09 fishing year (1 October 2008 – 30 September 2009).
Protected species need to be adequately described to ensure legal obligations of the Wildlife Act are followed. Samples of protected coral taxa, or of coral species that may appear to be protected coral taxa, have been returned by observers from commercial fishing vessels during the 2008/09 fishing year (1 October 2008 – 30 September 2009)as part of the Department of Conservation CSP Observer Programme requirements.
The coral by-catch samples (n=302), were sorted and identified to lower taxa (families, genera, species). International experts confirmed a proportion of the coral species identifications. Using common links of trip number and station number the data were loaded from NIWA databases (from either an excel spreadsheet database or from the recently developed Central Observer Database (OSD)) into the MFish Centralised Observer Database (COD) managed by NIWA. NIWA Collections (NIC) database (Specify) currently stores a proportion the information as several coral samples are held in stewardship by NIWA for the Department of Conservation.
All associated event data (e.g. target species, depth), have been made available to help monitor and quantify protected species interactions with commercial fisheries. Samples returned for identification at NIWA were taken as by-catch from 21 commercial trips targeting 8 fisheries and representing 11 Fishery Management Areas (FMAs). Fisheries that have had corals recorded as by-catch include those for deepwater and middle depths species such as orange roughy, smooth oreo, alfonsino, and hoki.
The deepsea coral samples returned by observers represent a valuable data source. Accurate identification data can be used to assess the incidental catch of corals (Rowe and Tracey 2008), to contribute to producing distribution plots for protected or species proposed to be protected (Consalvey et al, 2006; Rowden et al. 2008; Tracey at al in prep); for systematics and species identification (Sánchez et al. 2008), and to elucidate the relationships between invertebrates and commercial fishing activity. The information will continue to enable researchers and managers to help identify where specific coral groups and their associated fauna are at the highest risk of interactions with fishing gear.