Sustainable fish stocks a treaty obligation
7 April 2008
Sustainable and responsible fisheries management by Government is required to uphold Treaty of Waitangi principles, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.
He told the Treaty Tribes Coalition fisheries conference in Napier that if the Government allowed fish stocks to be destroyed, that damages Maori because Maori fishing interests are here for the long haul.
“I know, and you know, that Maori fishing interests aren’t going anywhere else than New Zealand. And there is no other commercial fishing interest that could make that claim as unequivocally.
“So damage to the fish stock damages Maori most.”
He cited the Orange Roughy 1 fishing area off the North Island as an example.
“The way the fish are spread and the way they group in the sea, it is very difficult to measure the size of the Orange Roughy stock with complete confidence. It’s easy to over-estimate the stock because it is fished to the bottom - so you keep pulling more out until suddenly there are none left.
“If you make a mistake like that, you destroy the fish stock for decades. It might take a century to recover.
“Orange Roughy is a long-lived fish and it takes a long time to breed. What will happen if we allow Orange Roughy to be fished out?
“I think it would be a massive Treaty breach.
“The Treaty explicitly guarantees Maori will be able to keep their right to fish - and we have only just in recent years restored that historical right. If, after all we have been through, the government now said ‘you can have your share of the fish, but there are none left’ - that would be a cynical and irresponsible Treaty breach.”
He said that there was no question that the administrative responsibilities conferred on the Crown in the Treaty explicitly required him to manage the resource better than that.
Jim Anderton said he thought fishing and aquaculture had an exciting future.
“The future is especially exciting for Maori, because Maori have a huge role in fishing and aquaculture.
“Our seafood exports are worth over $3 million a day to New Zealand. The industry is seven times bigger today than it was 20 years ago. The United Nations estimates the global demand for seafood will increase by a third over the next ten years. So there are huge opportunities for the industry.
“Maori are going to be a huge part of that growth.”