Fisheries Policy and Management Achievements during the Year
The new strategic approach was endorsed by the government, following year end. It sets the way forward and will form the basis of the Ministry’s outcome reporting for the future.
In this annual report we will be reporting on the previous fisheries outcome:
Maximising the value New Zealanders obtain through the sustainable use of fisheries resources and protection of the aquatic environment
and the three contributing outcomes:
- the health of the aquatic environment is protected
- people are able to realise best value from the sustainable and efficient use of fisheries
- credible fisheries management.
The cornerstone of our fisheries administration is the quota management system (QMS). This helps ensure sustainable use of fisheries resources through the direct control of catch (harvest) levels for each fish species in up to 10 geographical areas.
New Zealand has 96 species subject to the QMS. These are divided into 628 separate stocks. Each is being managed independently to help ensure sustainable use.
International reports in the past year have acknowledged the credibility of New Zealand’s QMS as a world-leading economic and sustainability model. A World Bank report last year praised New Zealand’s approach to fisheries management and said fishing rights through quota-based systems had turned the tide on unsustainable fishing.
More recently, New Zealand was one of only two marine areas to receive a “green” rating in the most comprehensive international scientific research of its type so far undertaken. This high-profile research paper, “Rebuilding Global Fisheries” was published in the prestigious journal, Science.
Environmental protection is another key element of New Zealand fisheries management. In 2007 the fishing industry and the Government worked together to close 17 areas to bottom trawling, providing protection to 1.2 million square kilometres of seafloor – four times the landmass of New Zealand and almost one-third of our huge exclusive economic zone. These are among the largest closures of their type anywhere in the world. This move ensures that the natural biodiversity is preserved, in the same way that National Parks are used on land.
New Zealand has also put in place a number of measures to manage the environmental impact of bottom trawling on the high seas, including banning bottom trawling of any unfished area and closing 112,000 square kilometres of previously fished high seas areas. Ninety percent of the EEZ has never been trawled.
Markets for seafood
The development of international seafood sustainability standards is in its infancy. We are at the same place with seafood product that food hygiene standards and safety was at 25 years ago. Consumers demanded safe and sustainable practices for primary sector food production that led to international standards setting which exporting nations had to meet.
Increasingly, markets are demanding fish product that has been sustainably caught and bears a level of traceability that enables consumers to see where the fish was caught and processed.
New Zealand exports 94 percent of its seafood product, generating some $1.35 billion in export earnings. Our future capacity to maintain and increase these earnings is now becoming critical as the three high value markets in the world, Japan, Europe and North America, are requiring a higher level of integrity of product.
European markets are demanding that every fish that we take into Europe from 1 January 2010 will have to be certified as caught legally. The Ministry of Fisheries will be working with other agencies and governments to integrate some of those traceability processes so that we can track product.
Harvest Strategy Standard
The Ministry is developing a comprehensive fisheries management regime designed to provide sustainable fisheries now and in the future. Fisheries standards, which represent the minimum performance level determined by government to be acceptable, are a key component of that management regime.
The Harvest Strategy Standard was signed by the Minister of Fisheries on 24 October 2008, after more than three years of development and consultation. It is a policy statement of best practice in relation to the setting of fishery and stock targets and limits for fish stocks in New Zealand’s quota management system.
The Harvest Strategy Standard outlines the Ministry’s approach to relevant sections of the Fisheries Act 1996 and, as it is implemented, it will form an increasingly important input to the Ministry’s advice to the Minister of Fisheries on the management of fisheries.
The objective of the Harvest Strategy Standard is to provide a consistent and transparent framework for setting fishery and stock targets and limits and associated fisheries management measures, so that there is a high probability of achieving targets, a very low probability of breaching limits, and acceptable probabilities of rebuilding stocks that nevertheless become depleted, in a timely manner. The Harvest Strategy Standard specifies appropriate probabilities that will achieve each of these outcomes.
The Harvest Strategy Standard consists of three core elements:
- a specified target about which a fishery or stock should fluctuate
- a soft limit that triggers a requirement for a formal, time-constrained rebuilding plan, and
- a hard limit below which fisheries should be considered for closure.
The Standard has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, for several fisheries. It has been used to guide the development of fisheries plans, help make better decisions about catch limits, and help us to achieve our objective of providing for the use of our fish stocks while ensuring their sustainability.
The Harvest Strategy Standard can be downloaded from the Ministry’s website at www.fish.govt.nz (go to NZ Fisheries Infosite/Environmental Sustainability).
The National Plan of Action for Seabirds and Seabird Standard are being discussed with stakeholders with draft proposals to be issued in the first half of 2009/10.
The Hector’s/Maui’s Dolphins Threat Management Plan has been implemented but aspects of it are currently subject to litigation by commercial fishers.
Another important element of fisheries management is third-party certification of fisheries. Hoki was certified in 2001 by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and was recertified for a further five years in 2007. The hoki fishery continues to benefit from its MSC certification in terms of both increased demand and access to markets.
Earlier in 2009 five further fisheries were assessed for MSC certification: albacore tuna, Challenger scallops, hake, ling and southern blue whiting. If these fisheries are successfully certified, it will mean that a third of New Zealand’s fisheries resources by volume are certified.
Government supports the certification process in two ways. First, the Ministry assists stakeholders with the financial cost of progressing fisheries through the certification process. Grants of up to 75 percent of the certification costs are available from the Ministry’s Eco-Certification fund, subject to applicants meeting criteria.
Three grants were awarded in the 2008/09 funding round:
- The Deepwater Group Ltd – $33,350 – grant towards a Marine Stewardship Council confidential pre-assessment of several EEZ fisheries.
- Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company Ltd – $43,625 – grant towards a Marine Stewardship Council full assessment of the Southern Scallop fishery.
- The Tuna Management Association – $43,625 – grant towards a Marine Stewardship Council full assessment of the Southern Pacific Albacore Tuna troll fishery within New Zealand waters.
Second, the Ministry ensures that the relevant information on our management regime is accessible by the certifiers. For example the recent introduction of the Harvest Strategy Standard provides a valuable input into the certification process particularly around the stock sustainability component.
New Zealanders fish for recreation, custom, tradition, and for a living, and many businesses and communities rely on fish and the aquatic environment. It’s important that our fisheries are managed so that all New Zealanders benefit. Objectives-based management has therefore become an increasingly important aspect of New Zealand’s fisheries management and provides a system of management that may be used to maximise value from a fishery for New Zealanders, within environmental limits.
Objectives-based management requires the setting of long-term, high-level outcomes for fisheries management. Standards need to be set to identify minimum performance levels, process requirements and service specifications.
Fisheries plans are a planning tool to help manage harvesting, and are used to help ensure outcomes are being met, and to obtain greater value from those fisheries covered by each plan. They are intended to give greater depth to medium-term planning by providing three to five year plans for management of the fisheries.
The plans should reflect high-level outcomes, identify objectives to meet those outcomes, identify options and select the optimal strategies, rules and services to deliver on those objectives (that meet standards and legislative requirements), and list measures and indicators, or describe how monitoring of performance will occur.
Fisheries plans will allow us to:
- identify the values obtained from the fishery
- set objectives for a fishery to get best value
- design the management of the fishery to achieve the objectives
- make fisheries management more transparent
- allow us to improve the way we prioritise use of Ministry resources
- provide a clearer basis for monitoring the performance of our fisheries.
The dredge oyster fishery in Foveaux Strait is one of New Zealand’s iconic fisheries. The fishery was chosen in 2006 as one of three smaller, single-stock fisheries to work on first as a ‘proof of concept’ Fisheries Plan. Stakeholders supported this choice as an opportunity to build on the methods fishers have used over the past 100 years in sustainable management of the fishery, and to ensure we are doing all we can to bring the fishery back to its historic productive state.
A draft ‘proof of concept’ Fisheries Plan was completed in 2007 and has been the ‘operating manual’ for managing the fishery since then. The Minister of Fisheries has now approved the Foveaux Strait Dredge Oyster Fisheries Plan (available on the Ministry’s website at www.fish.govt.nz/New Zealand Fisheries Infosite).
The change in organisational design has led to a review of the way in which the Ministry will work with tangata whenua and stakeholders to develop fisheries plans in 2009/10 and beyond. This will involve a more centralised approach to enable the Ministry to focus on its core roles of providing and monitoring the framework for fisheries management while providing opportunity for tangata whenua and stakeholders to take up opportunities to develop and implement fisheries plans.
It is unlikely that, in the near future, stakeholders will take on responsibility for the full development and implementation of a fisheries plan. But there is a range of options between complete devolvement of responsibility and government delivery of all functions, including collaborative approaches. The Ministry’s role in fisheries plans therefore needs to be determined on a case by case basis.
Since 2006 the Ministry of Fisheries has engaged in the collaborative management of New Zealand’s deepwater fisheries with commercial stakeholders through the Deepwater Group Ltd. This collaborative arrangement has been given effect through a Memorandum of Understanding between both parties.
The MOU was initially directed at collaborative engagement across fisheries management issues in the deepwater sector but in the last twelve months has expanded to include a collaborative engagement model in the area of compliance.
The Ministry’s Deepwater Team takes the lead on delivering the requirements of this MOU on behalf of the Ministry but is well supported by other business groups including science and compliance.
Benefits to date from this collaborative engagement model include:
- the creation of a forum for open, constructive, and collaborative dialogue
- the development of better quality policy and management advice
- industry being more open about involving the Ministry in its management issues
- improved compliance
- improved environmental management and mitigation across some areas, such as seabird mitigation.
We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively and proactively with stakeholders and will continue to look at opportunities to build similar collaborative relationships in the future.
Management of Foreign Charter Vessels
The use of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) remains a legitimate method for companies to reduce their capital investment costs for fishing in New Zealand’s EEZ. Most New Zealand fishing companies operating in the EEZ use FCVs to some extent, either through directly chartering a vessel or through selling annual catch entitlement (ACE) to operators who in turn use charter vessels. FCVs also provide a valid method for operators to secure access to overseas markets. The availability of FCVs is particularly important for iwi companies who have received quota under the Fisheries Settlement but do not have the capital base to purchase their own commercial vessels.
In recent years, concerns have been raised about the safety, crew conditions, hygiene standards, and operation of some of these FCVs in New Zealand waters. In response to these concerns government implemented new measures and processes to address issues in the areas of crew wages and conditions, vessel safety and risk to the integrity of the fisheries management regime. The primary purpose of these new measures is to facilitate a legitimate, high-quality FCV fleet to complement the New Zealand fishing industry.
The Ministry of Fisheries has a role in developing and implementing measures to mitigate the risk that FCVs could pose to the fisheries management regime and to ensure FCVs provide a safe and healthy working environment for Ministry staff and Observers.
These changes have resulted in a comprehensive vessel registration process, increased Observer coverage and the implementation of a formal standard to address on-board conditions for Observers. All FCVs are now also required to pass a safety inspection by Maritime New Zealand prior to being registered.
These measures were developed during 2007/2008 and, with the exception of the Observer Standard, took effect on 1 July 2008. The Observer Standard took effect on 1 July 2009 and the Ministry can confirm that many FCVs have undergone modifications to ensure they are in a position to meet the Observer Standard.