maori customary fisheries
Fisheries are a traditional source of economic and cultural wealth for iwi and hapü.
Being able to provide fish or shellfish to feed whänau (family) or manuhiri (guests) has always been part of the cultural heritage of tangata whenua, or ‘people of the land’.
Commercial fisheries have also been important, as seafood was traded widely among tribal groups and, later, with European settlers in Aotearoa.
Customary Fishing Regulations
The Kaimoana Customary Fishing Regulations 1998 and the Fisheries (South Island Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998 strengthen some of the rights of tangata whenua to manage their fisheries.
These regulations let iwi and hapü manage their non-commercial fishing in a way that best fits their local practices, without having a major effect on the fishing rights of others. When the government sets the total catch limits for fisheries each year, it allows for this customary use of fisheries.
The Guardians - Tangata Kaitiaki & Tangata Tiaki
To use the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapü groups must decide who has tangata whenua status over a fishery. This can be shared by a number of groups. Groups choose people to act as guardians for the area (Tangata Kaitiaki in the North and Chatham Islands, Tangata Tiaki in the South and Stewart Islands). The guardians are then appointed by the Minister of Fisheries.
Guardians can issue anyone a permit to catch fish in their area for customary use. They must report these catches to the Ministry of Fisheries so the government can allow for customary use when it sets next year’s catch limits.
Special Management Areas
Tangata whenua can ask for special management areas – ‘mätaitai reserves’ and ‘taiäpure-local fisheries’ – to cover some of their traditional fishing grounds. Within mätaitai reserves, guardians can bring in changes to the rules for customary and recreational fishing. They can also say whether some types of commercial fishing should continue in the reserve.
Other fishing method restrictions and closures for customary purposes are also available under section 186 A & B of the Fisheries Act.
Without the customary fishing regulations, iwi and hapü can only take fish for important events through Regulation 27 of the Amateur Fishing Regulations. This lets marae honour guests by providing seafood at events like hui and blessings. But it gives no more control over their fisheries than this.
The Ministry of Fisheries continues working with iwi and hapü to make them aware of the customary fishing regulations, and get them more involved in fisheries management in their areas.