Working together for sustainability
Leadership, consultation and collaboration
During 2005 we stated our intention of increasing our leadership role within the fisheries sector. Part of our leadership role is ensuring that stakeholders are heard and represented. The Ministry of Fisheries consults on its strategic direction, providing stakeholders with an opportunity to provide comment on our proposed work plan. This is published each year in our Statement of Intent, the blueprint for the Ministry's work of the coming financial year and beyond.
Consultation continues to be a key part of the Ministry's work at the individual work programme level as well.
Any resource in which different groups share an interest can be the subject of competition over access and use. Fisheries are no exception. Commercial, recreational and Māori customary fishers all seek to use them, and even more enjoy non-extractive activities offered by the marine environment and ecosystem, such as diving and whale watching. So finding a way to balance non-commercial and commercial fishing interests and expectations, and determining how best to manage individual fish stocks, has been the focus of the developmental work under the Fisheries Plans and Shared Fisheries projects.
In late 2005, the Ministry released its Fisheries Plan Framework, detailing the proposed evolution of fisheries management. First outlined in the Ministry of Fisheries' 2005-2008 Statement of Intent, the framework is based on developing plans in Ministry-led consultation and collaboration with tangata whenua and stakeholders. The planning process and its successful implementation provide the potential for improved effectiveness and efficiency.
Following the release of the Fisheries Plan Framework document, the Ministry has been developing - in collaboration with stakeholders - the first three Ministry-led fisheries plans for southern blue whiting, Foveaux Strait oysters and Coromandel scallops.
From the experience gained through this process, plans will be developed for particular fisheries, outlining management objectives for those resources and describing the tools and services that will be used to help achieve the objectives. At the same time, the plans will ensure that legislative obligations and government-established standards are met.
The consultation process is vital, as it helps tangata whenua and stakeholders increase their involvement and engagement in fisheries management and agree on objectives and other plan components. This, in turn, improves compliance with management measures required to meet environmental standards and ensure sustainability. All these steps add towards maximising the value that can be gained from these fisheries.
Late last year, the Minister of Fisheries asked the Ministry to talk with key stakeholder groups about the main issues that should be considered under a shared fisheries framework, and practical options to address them. Meetings were held in the first half of 2006 with all regional recreational fora, the Recreational Fishing Ministerial Advisory Committee, representatives of the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, option4, commercial inshore fisheries representatives, the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, Te Ohu Kai Moana, and a number of iwi fora and iwi forum executives.
The Ministry used the information from these meetings as part of preparations for wider public consultation on the issue. The aim is to increase the value of New Zealand's shared fisheries, by ensuring that both the commercial and non-commercial concepts of 'value' are considered as much as possible.
Public consultation took place on an industry proposal to close off to trawling and dredging 1.2 million square kilometres of sea bed within New Zealand's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). When added to New Zealand deepwater areas already closed, the proposed closures would mean that 42 percent of seamounts in New Zealand waters will be under some form of protection, making it one of the largest marine protection measures ever proposed within a nation state's EEZ.
The proposed closures would extend from the sub-Antarctic waters south of Campbell Island to our sub-tropical Kermadec region. They lie across a range of depths, and cover a range of habitats that broadly represent New Zealand offshore waters. The Ministry of Fisheries sought public submissions on the industry proposal and has been analysing these submissions.
Stakeholders vary in their areas of interest and the level of involvement they seek to have, and in many instances are working within the operational frameworks of more than one government agency.
Where the work of other government agencies overlaps that of the Ministry of Fisheries, it is in everyone's best interest to consult and cooperate with one another as much as possible. For areas of common interest, such as protected species, it makes sense for the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation (DOC) to share knowledge, discuss issues and reach agreement on courses of action.
The flow-on effect for tangata whenua and our stakeholders is increased certainty that issues under consultation have the shared focus of relevant government agencies. As a result, all parties have the opportunity to work together, discussing and developing ideas and initiatives.
Last year, Fisheries Science staff worked closely with DOC to harmonise the two organisations' research streams, a move which met with a positive response from stakeholders.
The Aquatic Environment Mid-Term Research Plan and the National Plan of Action on Seabirds were the focus of numerous research planning meetings between the two organisations. Stakeholders were then invited to take part in consultative sessions where the coordinated approaches were presented. Interested parties were then able to present their views. Feedback indicates the process has been well received and parties are keen to see it continue.
The Ministry will continue to look for such opportunities and champion efforts for all parties to work collaboratively.
Other interagency projects include Biosecurity initiatives with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and cooperative relationships with the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Customs Service and the Ministry of Defence in relation to surveillance, patrol and enforcement. The Ministry continues to work with DOC on proposals for developing Marine Protected Areas.
There are 'whole-of-government' initiatives that the Ministry has supported. Specifically, we have actively supported the development of the National Maritime Co-ordination Centre (NMCC) through funding and staff time and taken part in the NMCC working group and the Chief Executives' network overseeing the Centre's establishment.
The Ministry contributed to preparations for the operation of new Navy patrol vessels to be delivered in 2007 under Project Protector. The vessels will undertake a variety of non-military patrol activities that support all agencies with an interest in the marine environment. Patrolling fisheries will form a significant component of the vessels' work and the Ministry has coordinated a report requested by Ministers on the options for delivering short- and medium-range aerial surveillance to meet the high priority requirements of all civilian agencies with maritime patrol and surveillance responsibilities.
The Biodiversity Research Programme administered by the Ministry has been in place for five years. Results from early studies in the Programme are now being published, while some new and exciting projects have been initiated during 2005/2006.
The Programme has evolved from primarily being directed at classifying biological diversity in different environments to determining the functional role that biological organisms and groupings play in different aquatic environments. There are several projects that examine coastal environments, others that focus on the offshore and some which extend beyond the EEZ into adjacent waters (eg Louisville Ridge) or south to the Antarctic.
The Programme complements research on the effects of fishing and gives priority to habitats that may be under threat. Seamounts and underwater topographical features typically support long-lived, slow-growing organisms that are vulnerable to trawling. Projects to assess endemism and the role of seamount biodiversity in underpinning deepwater fisheries are under way. The biodiversity associated with soft sediments is also being investigated in a range of environments.
The Ministry recognises that environmental performance is likely to be an increasing issue for New Zealanders and is developing expertise on a wide range of topics such as trophic interrelationships (food chains), ecosystem modelling approaches, benthic habitat mapping and developing pragmatic standards to ensure that biodiversity is adequately protected.
Ocean Survey 20/20
This multi-agency programme aims to survey New Zealand's ocean and coastal resources (biodiversity and ecosystems, fisheries, navigation and geological hazards, hydrocarbons, biosecurity) to describe resource potential and develop tools for ocean management. Our Science team was heavily involved in the development of the work programme for Ocean Survey 20/20 during the year and the Ministry is the lead agency for the first project under this banner in 2006/2007.
That project aims to map sea-bed biodiversity and habitat on the Chatham Rise and Challenger Plateau, two areas of similar physical features but very different productivity levels. We are collaborating principally with Land Information New Zealand, DOC and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in developing the project; however, the intention is to include wider participation from the fishing industry and other interested groups.
The Ministry funded two Antarctic projects this year. The first saw a small, purpose-built yacht, the Tiama, sail to the Balleny Islands to survey biodiversity in the shallows around the Islands and seabird colonies on the Islands. The trip was very successful with diver footage collected and a highlight was the discovery of a new penguin colony.
The information will be used to assist in developing a proposal to establish a Marine Protected Area.
The Ministry also participated in a survey to the eastern Ross Sea, gathering data on seabird and mammal populations and plankton productivity. The use of cameras as a tool to survey Antarctic fish species was also assessed. Bottom samples were also collected around the Ballenys, continuing the work that had been started by the Tiama voyage and extending it to greater depths.
Substantial progress has also been made in toothfish stock assessment through the Antarctic Working Group and the development of a trophic model of the Ross Sea ecosystem. These are requirements in our governance of the Ross Sea dependency and for our role at the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
The New Zealand seafood industry's activities extend beyond New Zealand's EEZ. Our vessels fish throughout the world, on the high seas and in the zones of other countries. New Zealand fishing companies are involved in many joint venture arrangements around the world.
Important international issues that the Ministry of Fisheries has focused on this year include:
- improving international governance of fisheries resources
- addressing illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing
- contributing to the global Monitoring Control and Surveillance Network
- addressing the adverse impacts of fishing on the marine environment
- initiating the development of a new regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) in the South Pacific
- strengthening institutional capacity in fisheries agencies of developing Pacific Island countries.
Through RFMOs and agreements, specific areas of ocean or, in some cases, specific fisheries are managed. New Zealand meets annually with other member States to negotiate access to fisheries for New Zealand vessels and agree specific measures to conserve and manage the fisheries and their associated ecosystems. These measures are then incorporated into New Zealand laws and become legally binding on New Zealand vessels, companies and nationals.
Currently, New Zealand is a member of four RFMOs:
- the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna
- the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
- the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
- the South Indian Ocean Agreement.
The first international meeting on establishing a South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation took place in Wellington in February 2006 and was attended by representatives from 26 states and regional economic integrated organisations. These included coastal States and States with a historical fishing interest in the region. Eleven international and regional fisheries organisations, and eight non-governmental organisations and industry groups also participated as observers at the meeting. The establishment of this RFMO will make it one of the largest in the world and is a significant initiative for this region. The next meeting will take place in Australia in November 2006.
Fishing on the high seas is governed through international treaties agreed between States, and New Zealand has signed up to many of these treaties, incorporating a range of international obligations into New Zealand law.
The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the primary international legal instrument governing high seas fishing and sets out a framework of rights, obligations and duties with respect to high seas fishing - most importantly, the freedom to fish on the high seas, balanced with the responsibility for a State to control the activities of its nationals and vessels.
The 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) builds on UNCLOS provisions, and sets out rights and obligations for States to conserve and manage highly migratory fish stocks such as tuna, and stocks that straddle both the high seas and a State's EEZ.
The Ministry attended this year's Fish Stocks Agreement conference held in New York. Signatory countries reviewed the UNFSA and considered how and the extent to which the Agreement's provisions are being incorporated into national laws and regulations, as well as into the provisions and/or measures of regional fisheries management organisations.
Several recommendations driven by New Zealand were included as action items from the conference for follow up by RFMOs, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN General Assembly and by States individually. These included establishing performance indicators for RFMOs, with a self-assessment of their performance and an independent review. The Agreement and other legal instruments will be used as the basis for review criteria.
Recommendations were also included to strengthen and enhance cooperation among existing and developing RFMOs, measures to address participatory rights, and ensuring States provide catch and effort data, and other fishery-related information. New Zealand will help to implement changes in the four RFMOs in which we are involved.
In 2005/2006, the Ministry received approximately $3 million in new funding from the Government to assist with targeting poaching and black market activities, particularly in the paua fishery. The Ministry has strengthened its investigative and analytical resources and improved its technical and covert capabilities.
This has resulted in a number of successful prosecutions of people or groups of people who have been caught illegally taking and/or selling paua.
The Ministry is also undertaking a pilot programme, in association with MAF, to train two detector dogs to help combat illegal exports of paua from New Zealand. During the first half of 2006, the two dogs underwent months of intensive training with their MAF handlers, who helped them to hone their ability to sniff out paua, their 'target aroma'.
Alongside this, new relationships have been developed with industry groups and targeted communities that will enable us to build on our success in this area.
Our Fisheries Compliance Group is focusing on a range of education initiatives to support our goal of encouraging voluntary compliance with fisheries laws. These include visits to schools, fishing groups, iwi, boat shows, talks at conferences, and articles in newspapers, various fishing magazines and brochures. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Coastwatch television programme has greatly increased public awareness of the rules and helped achieve higher levels of voluntary compliance.
Throughout the 2005/2006 year, our Fisheries Compliance Group maintained its high evidential and casefile standards by recording a prosecution success rate of 95 percent.