Fishing permits suspended
22 November 2002
Fifty-one fishing permits have been suspended as the result of non-payment of deemed values by commercial fishers who took fish for which they do not hold catch entitlement.
The Ministry of Fisheries announced that the permits were suspended yesterday under provisions of the Fisheries Act 1996.
Between them the 51 fishers owe $1.2 million, but the majority owe less than $5,000 each. Invoices for deemed values were issued at the completion of the 2001/02 fishing year on 30 September. The permits will be re-instated when deemed values payments are made.
Ensuring commercial fishers who regularly exceed their catch entitlement do not benefit financially is essential to ensure the sustainability of individual fish stocks and New Zealand's $1.5 billion seafood industry, according to Ministry of Fisheries Service Delivery Manager, Russell Burnard.
Strong financial disincentives are in place to constrain commercial fishers who take more out of the sea than they are actually entitled to. Under New Zealand's Quota Management System, commercial fishers are charged a "deemed value cost" for taking excess catch. Without these charges there is no way of effectively constraining catches.
Mr Burnard acknowledged that sometimes catching species outside a fisher's entitlement could be accidental. However, he said with good planning deemed value costs could be minimised. Fishers can purchase annual catch entitlements (ACE) before going fishing, they can adjust their fishing operations to minimise the catch of species for which they do not hold ACE, and they can cover excess catch by buying ACE from other commercial fishers after they have caught the fish.
"It is interesting to note that some fishers traded a significant amount of ACE at the end of the fishing year to ensure their catch is fully covered by catch entitlement," Mr Burnard said. "We would expect that more fishers will spend time in balancing their catch rather than paying deemed values - the revised system introduced by the Act is designed to provide this flexibility for fishers.
The deemed value regime requires commercial fishers to pay an interim deemed value monthly and the balance on an annual basis. The interim deemed value provides a warning to fishers that they will face a greater charge at the end of the year if they have not covered their catch with ACE. If they subsequently obtain ACE to cover their catch, the interim deemed value is refunded to the fisher. Each fisher pays for any fish they catch which is not balanced with a catch entitlement.
"If we set deemed value too low then fishers would continue to catch fish even when they have no entitlement. Sustainability of the fisheries is paramount. We want fisheries to be utilised, but we also need commercial fishers to be responsible for their behaviour. The balancing regime provides the mechanism for changing the behaviour of commercial fishers.
"While individual commercial fishers often complain about having to pay deemed values, the industry generally supports the new balancing regime and had significant input into its design," Mr Burnard said. "The industry wanted to move away from the old system in which fishers were 'criminally liable' for not covering their catch with catching rights."
They agreed that the new administrative system would have to contain disincentives strong enough to discourage unconstrained fishing in excess of catching rights since this would jeopardise the sustainability of fish populations. The balancing regime-including deemed values-provides a flexible system in which fishers can balance by-catch, but not at the expense of the sustainability of the resource. The Ministry certainly believes the new system is a significant improvement on the old system.
For more information please contact:
Registry Services Manager
Ministry of Fisheries
Tel 04 470 2618