Leading New Zealand’s Sustainable Fisheries Management
The Ministry’s role
The Ministry of Fisheries role is to be the Government’s principal adviser on New Zealand’s fisheries management and impacts of fishing on the aquatic environment. Our role also encompasses dealing with issues that may impact on the continued availability of fisheries resources, and their interaction with the use of other marine resources. Sustainability of the sector is a cornerstone of all of our work.
Fisheries are a significant primary industry for New Zealand, contributing more than $1.3 billion in export earnings to our economy each year, and providing direct employment for more than 7,000 New Zealanders. Each year more than one million New Zealanders go recreational fishing. For many New Zealanders, access to fisheries has cultural and spiritual value that cannot be quantified.
Fisheries exist in an ever changing environment – fish stocks are not static, either in number or location. Aside from those stocks that are entirely within New Zealand waters, we share interests with other nations in the species that are highly migratory or that straddle the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)1. Not only do we have a significant role to play within this country; we must also take our voice to the international community.
Environmental issues are of increasing concern to New Zealanders, including the environmental effects of fishing. These issues are complex and there is ongoing work to achieve and maintain balance between the capacity of marine ecosystems to provide for current needs and concerns, and the interests of future generations.
Part of our role is ensuring that people within New Zealand have an understanding of the value of our fisheries. This includes understanding that limitations on the use of some fish stocks must exist because of the values that different sectors place upon them.
Gathering and interpreting information is also vital. We continue to ensure scientific information on the status of our fisheries is gathered and analysed, making information widely available through our publishing programmes.
The coming years will see the Ministry exercise continuing leadership in the fisheries sector. Considerable ground work in this area has been done, as evidenced by the work with tangata whenua and stakeholders on fisheries plan development, and engagement with stakeholders on draft standards.
Consultation forms a major part of this work. The Ministry has invested heavily in engagement with stakeholders and in building our ability to work cooperatively with iwi, other groups and organisations. In addition, the Ministry promotes input and participation from tangata whenua in Ministry processes. Building the capacity of our staff, and our organisation as a whole, is also a priority in order to deliver on the demanding workload that we have set for ourselves.
The Fisheries Sector
The Ministry works with four major fisheries sector interest groups – commercial, customary, recreational and environmental. Balancing rights with obligations requires consultation, a broad understanding of the sector, and a focus on achieving best value for all fishers.
Environmental interests are represented by a number of groups around the country that, like the Ministry, have strong interests in the sustainability of fisheries and the effects of fishing on the aquatic environment.
In the commercial area, while eight fishing companies provide 80 percent of New Zealand’s production, there are many medium and smaller fishing operations that contribute to the significant market value of this industry. Aquaculture also contributes more than $300 million in earnings, and recent cooperative work between government and the aquaculture industry is intended to support further development in the future. The Ministry works with the commercial sector through national representatives, such as Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and Aquaculture New Zealand, and commercial stakeholder organisations that represent the various commercial fisheries.
Along with a major role in commercial and recreational fishing, Māori have important rights and interests as customary non-commercial fishers. Both the practice of gathering customary food and the places where Māori gather it are special to tangata whenua. The Crown has an obligation to consult with Māori about these customary rights and develop policies to help recognise their use and management practices. To help with this the Ministry works closely with iwi and hapü on issues at both the regional and national level.
It is estimated that at least 20-30 percent of all New Zealanders fish in the sea for their personal use. While exercising this right, like other interest groups, recreational fishers are expected to abide by the restrictions that are in place to ensure fisheries are managed and used in a sustainable way. There is no single representative body that covers all recreational fishers, and the Ministry works with a range of groups around the country. Work to better recognise non-commercial values is ongoing and part of wider consultation processes on fisheries plans and standards, threat management plans and shared fisheries.
Interagency cooperation and collaboration within the sector
Even stakeholders with a common interest, such as commercial fishing, may have diverse perspectives and may vary in the degree to which they want to be engaged in consultation processes. When consultation is led by more than one government agency, this can add another level of complexity.
The Ministry of Fisheries’ goal is to work cooperatively, to share knowledge, discuss issues and, where possible, reach agreement on courses of action. Through this, tangata whenua and stakeholders can have greater certainty that agencies share a common focus around issues under consultation.
Interagency projects include biosecurity and primary sector economic transformation initiatives with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and cooperative relationships with the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Customs Service and the Ministry of Defence and New Zealand Defence Force in relation to surveillance, monitoring and enforcement. The Ministry also has a cooperative relationship with the National Maritime Co-ordination Centre, whereby the Ministry provides information and a liaison officer to the centre, and they coordinate access to defence assets.
The Ministry has also been supporting the Ministry for the Environment’s work to progress the Oceans Policy, through input into improved regulation to address environmental impacts in the EEZ. We are also working closely with MFE to support development of the aquaculture industry in New Zealand.
The Ministry works with Department of Conservation (DOC) on Marine Protected Areas and freshwater initiatives. The past year has seen the two organisations working together to amend regulations that manage the movement of freshwater fish and farming of fish on land-based sites. MFish also works closely with DOC’s Conservation Services Programme to align research programmes on protected species.
The Ministry works collaboratively with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to develop a New Zealand position for negotiations within Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and in multi-lateral forums, such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.
Throughout the year, fisheries compliance officers and managers met with counterparts in Australia to share new developments in operating procedures, training and development, and technology.
Efforts to increase the economic returns of the aquaculture industry has become a whole-of-government initiative and the Ministry has worked closely with MFE, DOC, Ministry of Economic Development, Te Puni Kökiri and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
In relation to Treaty Settlements, the Ministry works closely with other agencies including the Office of Treaty Settlements and the Ministry of Justice.
1. See Appendix for maps of New Zealand’s EEZ and Territorial Sea and Fisheries Management Areas.