Fisheries amendment to favour sustainability
07 December 2006
The government plans to change the fisheries legislation to ensure decisions can be more cautious and favour sustainability when there is little or poor information.
“I want the ability to act cautiously when I think it is necessary for the long-term sustainability of the fishery or marine ecosystems,” Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.
“Current fisheries legislation requires me to be as cautious about the impacts on fishers as I am in relation to possible impacts on sustainability. I want legislation that makes it clear that sustainability must come first - or otherwise there may not be any fish to catch.
The current ambiguity was one of the many issues in a recent High Court action, initiated by fishing industry interests around sustainability measures introduced in a North Island orange roughy fishery.
“Our knowledge of species, and especially ecosystem behaviour, is often incomplete or of unknown quality. So we need to act cautiously, when information on sustainability is uncertain or limited. This is as much in the interests of the industry's long-term sustainability as it is in protecting the environment,” Jim Anderton said.
The proposed legislative changes are intended to align the Fisheries Act with the internationally accepted ‘precautionary approach’, which New Zealand has signed up to in a range of international agreements. The original policy intention when the Fisheries Act 1996 was being developed was to implement this precautionary approach for New Zealand fisheries management. However, the current wording of the Act is ambiguous over how a decision-maker should act when information is uncertain or absent.
“The proposed legislative changes will remove this ambiguity, and will require decision-makers to act in favour of sustainability in fisheries situations where information is uncertain or limited,” Jim Anderton said.
This principle will extend to both managing fish species and the environmental effects of fishing, for example seabirds such as albatrosses or marine mammals such as sealions.
This proposal will ensure a more stable and sustainable resource base so fisheries utilisation can continue to make a contribution to economic development and improve the quality of recreational and customary fishing.
“I want to see the legislative changes made before my next major set of fisheries management decisions (for the fishing year commencing 1 October 2007),” Jim Anderton said.