AGM and Conference of the NZ Recreational Fishing Council
2 July 2004 Ministerial Address opening the AGM and Conference of the NZ Recreational Fishing Council.
"Plans for the fishery in the future"
Friday 2 July 2004 at 11.30 am
Flames International Hotel, Waverley St, Onerahi, Whangarei
Mr Chairman, and delegates. Thankyou for inviting me to join you today.
I often start speeches to gatherings such as this, with a little story appropriate to the audience. A bit of an ice breaker if you like.
So I was keen to come up with a fishing yarn that might set the scene and put everyone at ease.
And then I remembered that as recreational fishers you all knew at least one fishey tale involving me.
This one went something like a schoolboy, still learning the parliamentary ropes, had been appointed to be the minister responsible for your sector.
It was an interesting reception, to say the least, to see those comments in print attributed to the Recreational Fishing Council, on the announcement of my appointment. A strange way of ensuring your members' views are fully considered!
Well, as you'll observe, no short pants, no school satchel. Very little need for hair gel either.
And I guess I have started at that point today, because I'd like to clear the air. What disappointed me most about that kind of welcome, was that, that is not how I like to do business.
As Minister of Fisheries I am charged with enhancing the value and enjoyment of New Zealand's fisheries for all New Zealanders.
I believe that quite lofty goal almost explicitly acknowledges the tensions that exist when making decisions within this sector.
While the oceans around New Zealand are large, our coastline extensive, fish most often abundant, all these are, ultimately, finite and discrete resources.
And there are competing claims for access to these finite resources.
Stakeholders that spring to mind most readily include you the recreational fishers; the commercial fishing industry; environmental groups; coastal users generally; and customary fishers.
But we should not forget that while all these groups are most directly involved in our oceans resources the list does not stop there.
From the oceans has sprung an export industry that provides jobs and revenue that has an impact on communities across the country. In the biodiversity stored in organisms found beneath the waves we have a genetic store that might rightly be described as belonging to generations to come.
So as I said my statutory responsibilities are to manage our fisheries for all New Zealanders.
And the only way I can see through this mine-field of competing interests, is to be open and honest. To enter into a dialogue with stakeholders like yourselves. To listen, to try to understand your concerns, and to weigh those up against the wishes and concerns that others may have.
I can see from the programme that you have sessions planned on several issues that are presently attracting much interest, and I’m sure they’ll provide an opportunity for productive debate.
As I've mentioned, I encourage the airing of views and, more particularly, the exchange of information about fisheries and fishers expectations, because I think that is at the heart of a more co-operative management approach.
I'd like to expand on this idea a little later.
But first, I'd like to give you a quick ’overview” or snapshot of the New Zealand fisheries management scene, from my perspective, in respect of some of the current issues.
The Aquaculture reforms
I note that aquaculture reform is one of the sessions that you have planned, so I’ll limit myself to a quick overview here.
These reforms were designed to provide a simpler means of identifying and allocating appropriate space for marine farming, while protecting existing fishing rights. The reform also aims to provide certainty as to where marine farming will and will not occur.
The initial moratorium period on new applications, which was designed to provide “breathing space” for policy development in the face of a gold-rush that faced the marine farming industry, has been extended until December of this year.
The Government has indicated an intention to settle Maori interests not addressed in the 1992 Fisheries Settlement by means of an allocation of 20% of marine farming space created since 1992, and future space in Aquaculture Management Areas.
What will it mean for recreational fishers?
There is no intention of changing the current test that determines the impact of the proposed farm on recreational fishers. There will therefore be no AMAs in areas where that would have undue adverse effects on fishing.
From my perspective I want to see legislation that is as simple as possible, and which enables farmers and fishers to look ahead, to plan with a degree of confidence on the location and impact of farming activity, and provides for reasonable development.
The marine farming industry is naturally concerned at the delays, and I’m committed to push reform along, but only reform that provides a suitable protection for recreational fishers.
Finalising QMS introductions
We are coming to the end of the first phase of the implementation of the Quota Management System.
The last couple of years in particular have seen large numbers of species introduced, so that by the end of next year, all the commercially important species will be managed by Individual Transferable Quota.
I‘d like to note here that the New Zealand experience is typical of all countries that have moved from open access regimes to those operating under restricted access regimes, governed by shares of total catch.
In each case there is considerable tension generated at the point of allocation, which puts pressure on both the policy and the implementation processes, and can often lead to litigation.
This “rough water” is generally a temporary stage and things calm down as both fishers and managers get experience with the new regime. Once the allocation issues are resolved, the fishing industry has a more direct interest in sustainable use, because they hold a share of it in perpetuity.
In my view we are largely through the rough water stage and the current QMS regime provides a sound basis for the future. This will be enhanced by the modifications, to the permit and quota allocation mechanisms, contained in the amendment Act currently before Parliament.
What does the Amendment Bill provide for recreational fishers?
I acknowledge that the QMS requires sometimes contentious decisions to be made about the allocation of fisheries, and recognition of different interests. But I say to you, the QMS remains the best regime for achieving effective control of catch.
Once those allocation decisions have been made, the QMS provides a secure base on which each sector can consider how best to maximise the value of its interest.
Review of customary fishing rules
There has been some recent media comment about alleged abuse of customary fishing provisions, in a few limited areas.
As you may know, the Fisheries Settlement provided for the creation of specific Kaimoana Customary Fishing regulations governing the taking of fish by Maori for customary purposes.
It also provided for fishing to be undertaken under provisions (Regulation 27) in the Amateur Fishing Regulations, until all areas came under the Kaimoana regulations. Currently there is still a significant amount of customary fishing covered by Regulation 27
In April I announced a review of Regulation 27, principally in relation to the rules around issuing of permits. It will be conducted in collaboration with the Minister of Maori Affairs, Parekura Horomia.
In the majority of cases I believe that permits are being issued responsibly, but the review will ensure that the requirements are properly defined and adhered to.
I hope to have the review concluded by year-end.
I’m very aware of the importance of this fishery to recreational fishers. I have yet to make a decision on catch limits, though I will be very shortly, so I believe its not appropriate for me to indicate my views at this stage.
However, let me assure you that I’ll consider the options very carefully, and note that it’s timely that I’m here now, as it gives me an opportunity to hear your views directly.
Where to from here?
The issues that I have just summarised are, I think, the last parts of a particular stage of fisheries management, in that they are completing a number of strategies or initiatives commenced some time ago.
Once they are completed, and in most cases that will be well before the end of next year, they will provide a base for further gains from better fisheries management.
Achieving those gains will involve a new approach.
The Government will continue to set the context and the boundaries within which fisheries management occurs.
While the purpose of the new approach is to provide more responsibility to stakeholders for fisheries management decisions, there will still be a need to set out outcomes or results that must be achieved, in the national interest, to meet the overall goal.
The Government will be responsible therefore for ensuring these national results are expressed in a series of standards, which can be used to develop more detailed objectives for particular fisheries.
The use of standards signals a change from prescribing how fishers must act, towards an approach where the outcomes or results are defined, but there is greater flexibility for stakeholders to determine how best to achieve the standards.
The detailed objectives, and services for particular fisheries will be set out in stock strategies, and fish plans.
Stock strategies will be prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, after consultation with stakeholders, and the Government will be responsible for their implementation, including providing the fisheries services required such as research and compliance.
Fish plans provide an opportunity for stakeholder groups to set management objectives that best maximise the value of their interest in the fishery. They allow for such groups to not only set the objectives, but also take up responsibility for providing the services to manage the fishery.
The main purpose of this management approach is to provide the best opportunity for fishers themselves to achieve the maximum value referred to in the goal.
It is however, only an opportunity. No group will be required to develop or implement fish plans, and in their absence the government will continue to manage fisheries under stock strategies.
This change in approach will not take effect overnight, but it does signal the development of a platform that allows stakeholders to increase their direct responsibility for management decisions.
So where does this leave your recreational rights?
The mention of increased stakeholder management raises the issue of how recreational rights could be reformed to assist that task.
The Recreational Reference Group has put in a great deal of effort in that regard over the last year and I’d like to say thank you to them for their commitment and ideas.
They’ve had to be part of a process that requires them to promote the results that the sector seeks, and also be open to considering different ways that might be achieved.
It’s not an easy task, and we’re not there yet, but we have identified several areas that will have to be addressed to make progress.
One of them is to get better information on the nature and extent of recreational fishing, and another is to look at the need for the number of current regulations.
More on those shortly.
There is still a lot of work to be done, and stakeholders will have the opportunity to be involved in the development of both stock strategies and standards.
The creation of standards that are both effective and practical will be greatly assisted by advice from groups such as yourselves and I urge you to get involved in the process as it progresses.
So what is the next phase?
The developments and initiatives I’ve outlined are designed to enable stakeholders to get more benefit or value from fisheries, firstly by indicating with more clarity what the Government outcomes and standards are, and secondly by allowing stakeholders to develop alternative management methods to achieve the same standards.
As I noted earlier, this framework will take some time to be put into effect, and the Ministry of Fisheries has indicated in its annual plan, that a considerable amount of effort will be spent on setting up the management processes required to operate it.
Recreational fishers, along with other stakeholders, will be kept informed of that progress, and will be consulted on standards and stock strategies.
How will this management framework affect recreational fishers?
I think it will affect you in three main areas.
Firstly, the Government will continue to set the standards to ensure that the impacts of fishing, on both fish stocks and the aquatic environment, do not exceed acceptable limits.
This approach is not intended to reduce any of the obligations under the Fisheries Act; indeed it should increase the understanding of them by creation of clear outcomes and standards.
Secondly, there will be an increased focus on maximising the value to be achieved from New Zealand’s fisheries resources.
I want to make it clear that the word “value” is in no way restricted to economic or monetary value. To take that stance is to miss the whole point of the goal, which recognises that fisheries provide a range of values; social, cultural, as well as economic.
It is one of the challenges of this new management approach to provide appropriate recognition of all values, when determining fisheries management objectives.
To do that will require information on the way fisheries resources are used, and our data here is somewhat patchy.
Historically the information on recreational use is not as comprehensive as that for commercial fishing, and I know you will be aware that this is of particular relevance when TACC decisions are made in quota fisheries.
I’m pleased to say that the Government has recognised the need for more information on recreational fisheries and has allocated FOUR MILLION DOLLARS over the next 4 years to improve the situation.
That was a Budget that had at its heart fairness and opportunity. I think those values apply as much to the recreational fishing sector as they do to the working families who received such a boost from Budget 2004.
Lastly, the Government will look to stakeholder groups to work with it in managing fisheries.
The most successful management regimes around the world seem to be those where there are strong stakeholder groups, which are able to work together to not only define a common purpose for managing a fishery, but also to be involved in the day to day management.
That involves building organisations that have the skills and structures to not only represent their members, but also to accept responsibility for, and undertake some fisheries management services.
Building such organisations is not a short-term task; it requires a commitment to the long haul, and a belief that the investment in management and organisational capacity will lead to obtaining greater value from the fishery.
Your organisation has a powerful voice in the fisheries sector, as I am well aware as I approach some TACC decisions that are of special significance to you.
You have a record of consistent and strong advocacy on behalf of your members, and you make a significant contribution to informing government decisions on managing fisheries.
What I am suggesting is that you can build on that by getting more involved in the management process, and at an earlier stage. I guess what I have in mind is an ongoing and more extensive dialogue, at both local and national level.
Stock strategies and fish plans both provide a means of recreational participation in management
In the case of stock strategies, you can make submissions, and take part in the processes to develop and refine specific strategies, most probably in respect of fisheries where you have a particular interest.
Alternatively, you could take the initiative yourselves, and, working to the relevant standards for the fishery, develop a fish plan that could be implemented by recreational fishers themselves.
A fish plan would have to have a substantial degree of support from recreational fishers, and I would be keen to see that any organisation that proposed a plan was both representative of, and accountable to, recreational fishers themselves.
As I said earlier, this will be an incremental process, and we’ll make progress by building on what we’ve got, but I think there are a couple of particular areas where we could see results fairly quickly.
One of these is information on recreational fishing
We’ve got the new initiative funding, and that will provide a boost to our databases, but there is still a lot of potentially useful information held by recreational fishers that could be tapped in to.
The challenge, for both the Ministry and yourselves, is to find an effective, and cost-efficient means of getting hold of it and assembling it in a way that it can be relied on in management decisions.
A number of options have been suggested, including the use of web sites, but further work needs to be done to ensure that we get both accurate and relevant information from them. I encourage you to continue exploring possible solutions with Ministry staff, and other stakeholders.
The other is reviewing of regulations
It seems to me that there are regulations where there is a question surrounding the value they really add to our fisheries. It may be that in some cases, current restrictions could be amended, with consideration given to the effect on sustainability.
Last year, the Ministry agreed to review a limited number of amateur regulations, to be chosen by the Recreational Reference Group, over the next couple of years. I don’t know whether there will be any change as a result of those reviews, but I’m confident that the process itself will lead to a better understanding, between yourselves and the Ministry, of the purpose the regulations serve, and how they maintain or add to the value of your fishery.
That better understanding is crucial to any alternatives that you may propose in the future.
So, to sum up...
I believe New Zealand fisheries are in good heart. We’ve got through the establishment phase of the QMS, and it now provides a stable base for more refined management.
Future management will concentrate on creating value in fisheries. This will be achieved by the Government setting the overall objectives and standards, and providing opportunities for stakeholder groups to develop and deliver management options that best meet their needs.
Is this a realistic scenario?
Well that's up to all of us.
More people than ever want to go fishing. Pressure on inshore fishing resources from recreational fishers is only going to increase over the coming years and decades.
In some instances there are strategies in place to rebuild stocks that have been identified as being below the desirable level, and in some cases these strategies involve changes to the rules that apply to recreational fishers such as size and bag limits.
There will undoubtedly be changes in the rules that relate to recreational fishers as MFish tries to maximise the value that New Zealanders gain from the pleasure of fishing for recreation, and the value of a thriving seafood industry, and to ensure that future generations of New Zealanders will have the opportunity to enjoy both of these things.
In my view the best chance we have for getting the best value from our fisheries both now and in the future, is by relying on the knowledge and passion of those that are most directly involved with them.
It will take time, and no doubt we’ll have to overcome some hurdles on the way, but I’m confident that groups such as yours can take up this challenge and succeed.
Enjoy your conference.