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The New Zealand Fishing Industry

Key facts and background information on the fishing industry in New Zealand.

Recent History

New Zealand’s commercial fishing sector has built up over the last 30 years. In the 1970s our fishing industry was largely an inshore affair. Offshore waters, beyond our 12 nautical mile Territorial Sea, were fished by Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Soviet vessels. With the introduction of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone in 1977 and the introduction of the quota management system in 1986, many New Zealand companies went on to invest in fishing vessels to fish the available catch and onshore factories to process the catch. The industry has also grown from being a predominantly domestic supplier to one of the nation’s leading export industries. In excess of 90 percent of all fish landed is exported.

The Quota Management System

Key facts

  • Today eight fishing companies provide 80 percent of production but there remain a large number of medium and smaller, usually inshore, fishing operations.
  • Some 2200 individuals and companies own quota.
  • The value of that quota is estimated to be worth $3.5bn.
  • There are over 1,500 commercial fishing vessels registered in New Zealand and 239 licensed fish receivers and processors.

Industry Organisations

Seafood New Zealand provides overarching representation of the commercial sector. It promotes the interests of all fishing industry sectors by providing economic information and advice, co-ordinating industry resources, and enhancing the industry's profile in the community.

Currently, most commercial fisheries in New Zealand are represented under five Sector Representative Entities (SREs). By working together, the Ministry and SREs ensure stakeholder views are represented in New Zealand’s fisheries resources management.

Seafood New Zealand

Maori role in commercial fishing

Maori were provided with a substantial stake in commercial fishing as part of a Treaty Settlement. Under the Treaty of Waitangi, Mäori were guaranteed “undisturbed possession” of their fisheries until they wished to dispose of them to the Crown. With the introduction of the QMS the government bought back 10 percent of the quota shares it had given to fishers and gave this to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, for the benefits of Mäori. In 1992, the government gave Mäori a cash settlement that was used to buy half of New Zealand’s biggest fishing company – Sealord. The government also gave Maori 20 percent of the commercial quota shares of any new species brought into the QMS.

Maori have built their commercial stake to a point where they now control or influence more than 30 percent of our commercial fisheries. In 2004, Parliament approved the distribution to iwi of substantial fisheries assets and this is now being implemented by Te Ohu Kai Moana.

Te Ohu Kai Moana

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Updated : 16 October 2012