Changing Course - Towards Fisheries 2010
- Preface by Chief Executive
- Nature's limits: The challenge
- Net gains: The change of course
- Fisheries 2010: The twelve founding principles
- Guardianship: Our children's future
- Foresight for the future: Strategic issues
- Our common future: Working with stakeholders
- Next steps for the Ministry: Where to from here?
- Project 2010
Copies of this document are available from the Ministry of Fisheries.
Changing Course: Sustainable fisheries in a healthy aquatic ecosystem
Net gains: The change of course - from resource management to ecosystem based management
The history of the last 150 years of non-Maori fisheries management in New Zealand is largely a tale of open access to what was seen as an unlimited resource. Until the 1970s, when concern grew over depletion of fish stocks and declining economic viability of the industry, the emphasis was on maximising production and net economic returns. Shortcomings of this open access approach include over-capitalisation and over-harvesting.
During the 1980s increased awareness among New Zealanders that natural resources like fisheries were finite led to the introduction of a Quota Management System, the cornerstone of the fisheries management regime for the past decade. The passage of the Resource Management Act in 1991 applied a sustainable management goal to the use, development and protection of natural resources other than fisheries.
Evolving societal attitudes toward natural resources during the 1990s created a new level of awareness that natural systems are interconnected. An ecological approach towards fisheries management is an enhancement of the resource management framework, one which is more appropriate for the coming millennium. It reflects such key trends as growing environmental awareness and increasing globalisation.
The Ministry is advocating ecosystem based management as the underlying principle of the proposed Fisheries 2010 Strategy. This approach explicitly recognises that New Zealand's fisheries are a finite resource and are part of wider aquatic ecosystems. It also recognises the need for both to be managed together in ways that ensure their survival.
Evolution of society's attitudes to natural resource management since 1840
The case for ecosystem based management
Fisheries policy must support a long-term future for a fishing industry by setting sustainable catch limits and providing secure, tradeable harvesting rights. This provides a framework that allows the industry to be both competitive and healthy.
Societal attitudes towards our fisheries continue to change. The ecosystem based management approach, which will be the cornerstone of the Fisheries 2010 Strategy, is a recognition that natural systems are interconnected and need to be managed in ways that ensure their survival.
The Ministry believes it is time to view the management of fisheries in the context of the aquatic ecosystem environment. All aspects and values of the aquatic ecosystem need to be taken into account when considering fisheries management goals and regimes. More information is needed about the relationship between the population dynamics of species and the health of the ecosystem. Many fish stocks depend on a healthy, near-shore coastal ecosystem. For example, mangrove and other inshore ecosystems are important nurseries for many commercial fish stocks.
Fisheries policy also encompasses the management of recreational fisheries; provision for customary Maori fishing (including taiapure and mataitai); and input into public processes under the Resource Management Act to ensure fisheries management objectives are taken into account in the management of the coast and waterways.
The Ministry recognises that moving to an ecological framework for managing our fisheries will require the building of a new consensus with stakeholders and other government agencies. This process will consist of establishing the outcomes society wants to achieve and implementing the strategies to achieve these outcomes.
Once the frameworks to maximise the contribution of all stakeholders in this process are in place, all future fisheries policy will be judged on the basis of whether it is consistent with the principles of the Fisheries 2010 Strategy and advances or detracts from achieving its goals.
Ecological values in a market economy
Among other things, the Environment 2010 Strategy pointed out that the market economy is a very efficient and flexible way to allocate many resources to meet individual needs and preferences. Society benefits from the innovation and dynamism that the market secures.
But not all the outcomes of a market economy are necessarily beneficial. The market can create harmful spillover effects, as well as benefits. Where these unforeseen spillover effects of the market economy are judged to be undesirable, citizens will seek to change them through political processes. Concern about sustainable use of our fisheries has led governments to intervene to manage fisheries. We face more ignorance about the consequences of using natural and physical resources than about many other decisions in a market economy. Further, current management structures provide limited mechanisms for individuals or groups to minimise environmental harm, or have inadequate ways of enforcing their right to a clean environment.
Fisheries policy must recognise that markets have some difficulty with the issues set out below:
Future generations are not traders in the market, yet many consider that they should have fair access to resources. Their ability to meet their own needs should not be compromised in decisions made today.
The links between economic activity and ecosystem damage are often indirect and highly uncertain. Cumulative and indirect impacts on the life-supporting capacity of ecosystems can arise if appropriate limits are not in place.
Environmental effects and risks are not equitably spread and unforeseen impacts may be irreversible. This inequitable impact is not easily resolved either through the market or by regulation.
Many consider that the environment and non-human species have intrinsic value (that is, they are 'valuable' in their own right).
This is not to say that government intervention would necessarily achieve better results. Governments are severely limited in the information available to them; they face difficulties in knowing the preferences of individuals, and may be unduly influenced by sectional interests.
Governments need to evaluate the social, economic and environmental costs and benefits of any proposed intervention. They need to be reasonably certain that the suggested 'cure' is not worse than the 'disease', and that it does not create undesirable side effects.
The Government's goal is to gain the greatest possible benefits from a market economy. A sustainable and internationally competitive fishing industry is central to effective fisheries management and is an important contributor to the growth of New Zealand's economy. This, however, must be consistent with society's present demands for environmental quality and the capacity of the environment to sustain the needs of future generations.
The Government's task is to develop rules and institutions that promote good environmental outcomes within the framework of a pluralistic society and a market economy.
This may require amending the rules governing existing property rights or the creation of new ones. In other instances it will involve introducing rules and regulations designed to protect environmental values that are not easily secured by market exchanges.