Bill to safeguard sustainable fisheries
1 March 2007
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton has introduced a bill today to amend the Fisheries Act 1996 designed to safeguard the ongoing sustainability of New Zealand’s fisheries.
“The Amendment Bill will ensure that decision makers can take appropriate measures to ensure sustainability in fisheries and protection of the marine environment where there is a lack of information or uncertainty about a fish stock," Jim Anderton said.
"Currently the Act states decision makers must be cautious when information is absent or uncertain, but it is not clear whether they should be cautious by favouring utilisation (fishing) or by ensuring sustainability," he said. "This lack of clarity leaves decisions open to legal challenge."
The Amendment Bill will better reflect the widely accepted international interpretation of the precautionary approach, as it applies to fisheries management decisions in New Zealand.
Jim Anderton said fisheries management must aim to get the best value from our fisheries, not just for today, but for the future. “Sometimes you need to sacrifice one fish today for the opportunity to catch 10 fish tomorrow. Fish left in the sea are fish ‘in the bank’. It is important that we don’t take risks with our fisheries resources because they can be quickly depleted but take a long time to rebuild.”
“The government believes the fishing industry can have a promising future if we ensure that our fish stocks are sustainably managed. We can get significant market premiums for our fish exports if we can assure consumers of our sustainability. This is the way to add value to exports, and is the way of the future. This Bill is part of the Government’s programme to keep the industry sustainable and on the right side of consumer sentiment,“ said Jim Anderton.
If the amendment passes smoothly through the legislative process as expected, the changes will take effect before the Total Allowable Catches are set for each fishery at the beginning of the new fishing year in 1 October 2007.
- The proposed Amendment Bill would amend the Fisheries Act 1996 to better reflect the widely accepted international interpretation of the precautionary approach as it applies to fisheries management decisions, in the New Zealand context.
- The proposed Amendment Bill would make clear that where information is absent, uncertain, unreliable or inadequate, decision makers should not use this as a reason for failing to ensure sustainability of fisheries resources and address the impact of fishing on the aquatic environment.
- The proposed Amendment Bill ensures that decision makers will not be constrained in taking measures to ensure sustainability because information is absent, uncertain, unreliable or inadequate, even where the measures may limit short-term utilisation (current levels of fishing).
- In the medium to long-term, sustainability and utilisation are compatible because stocks must be maintained at sustainable levels to allow optimal ongoing catches. If stock levels are low, however, short-term utilisation may need to be reduced so that both utilisation and sustainability increase in the medium to long-term.
- The proposed changes may negatively impact on utilisation in certain circumstances in the short-term, but it should ensure a more sustainable resource base so that all New Zealanders can continue to obtain significant value from the utilisation of fisheries resources. The overall impact of this change will be positive.