Fisheries Quota Management System celebrated
24 May 2007
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton last night paid tribute to those involved with the establishment of the Quota Management System (QMS). "The quota system was not universally popular when it was introduced, but now that twenty years have tested it, we can measure its success: Export revenue from fishing has increased seven fold over the last twenty years. We have an internationally competitive industry with no subsidies."
He was speaking at a dinner celebrating the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the QMS. "When the first Polynesian settlers arrived in New Zealand there was no problem. Fish were abundant, there weren't all that many people to eat them and fishing was hard. Even in the early twentieth century, tiny fishing boats would chug out from coastal ports," Jim Anderton said.
By the early 1980s, however, many inshore fisheries, such as snapper on the east coast, were in serious trouble. "We reached a turning point – our fisheries had limits and we’d reached them. We have known about the problem of over-exploitation of open resources at least since Aristotle, who said "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it".
Jim Anderton noted that New Zealand was not the first country to introduce the idea of a QMS, but it was the first to apply it to an entire fishery. "Introducing a regulated market at that time was all the more radical because it was a time when regulation was not fashionable in New Zealand when open slather was the approach to just about everything else."
He acknowledged that current times are not the easiest for fishing. "But imagine if the pressure was compounded by collapsing fish stocks? The QMS has helped to preserve our fisheries resource. It is an example of a truly sustainable way to run an economy."
Jim Anderton paid tribute to earlier ministers of fisheries who played decisive roles in the QMS: Duncan MacIntyre, Colin Moyle, Ken Shirley, Doug Kidd, John Luxton, Pete Hodgson and David Benson-Pope. "It's fair to say that all those ministers have represented a wide spectrum of political flavours in Parliament. So it is a tribute to the quota management system that we have all endorsed the quota approach.
"Of course we also have in common one other feature: We've all been litigated. There is no other sector as deeply and frequently taken to judicial review and it is a disappointing feature of an industry with exciting economic potential.
"If litigation is an inevitable feature of the quota system, then it is a weakness. But I don't think it has to be inevitable. Lawyers can clean, gut and fillet the system more efficiently than any fishing boat and in future we have to find a better way for points of view to be reconciled than going to court," Jim Anderton said.
He took the opportunity to talk about the need to adopt the precautionary approach in managing fish stocks, saying that the decline in orange roughy was an example of not being cautious enough. "It’s examples such as these that lead me to believe that, where we don’t have good biological information, we need to be a bit more cautious. We need to do this to safeguard the resource for future generations, as well as protect our valuable market image and claim to be sustainable," Jim Anderton said.
"To all those who have been associated with its development, I pay tribute tonight, and I look forward to a future that is healthier for our economy and our resource base because of the Quota Management System."
Read the Minister's speech in full