New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the fourth largest in the world, extending 200 nautical miles out from our coastline, and measuring 1.3 million nautical square miles, more than 15 times New Zealand's landmass.
However, the fisheries resources within the EEZ are not as abundant or as productive as they are in other parts of the world, due to factors such as a narrow continental shelf and a lack of nutrient upwellings. Furthermore, New Zealand is only on the periphery of the migratory range of highly migratory species such as tuna.
Another characteristic of the EEZ is its depth, with 72 per cent in waters more than 1,000 metres deep, 22 per cent between 200-1000 metres and only six per cent less than 200 metres. Consequently, commercial fishing within the EEZ is heavily reliant on fish species found in deep waters at depths ranging from 200-1200 metres, rather than species found in shallower waters.
New Zealand's marine ecosystems and species are highly diverse. About 8000 marine species have been found in New Zealand waters, including 964 species of fish, 2000 species of molluscs (snails, shellfish, and squid), 400 species of echinoderms (kina, and starfish), and 900 species of seaweed. The result is a wide variety of marine plants and animals with a patchy distribution.
Limited information makes evaluating the state of New Zealand's marine ecosystems difficult. Coastal fisheries were heavily depleted in the two decades prior to 1985. Since the introduction of the fisheries quota management system (QMS) in 1986, most QMS stocks for which biomass and productivity data are known are thought to be above sustainable levels. However, for over half the species managed under the QMS, too little is known to be able to assess whether harvesting levels are sustainable. For several species where information is available, stocks have been depleted below levels judged to produce maximum sustainable yields, but management strategies are in place to rebuild these stocks to sustainable levels.
Shellfish and some other marine invertebrates remain vulnerable to over-harvest and habitat degradation, caused by sediment from rivers, pollution, changes in sea temperature, and fishing activities. Although our coastal waters and habitats are generally held to be of high quality by international standards, they are under stress in some areas, particularly near large estuarine towns and cities and the mouths of large rivers. Estuarine and marine ecosystems are also threatened by the invasion of exotic species-a problem aggravated by vessels transporting ballast water, and hull encrustations.
Little is also known about the composition of benthic species, the resilience and regenerative capacity of deepwater seamount habitat, or the actual nature and extent of damage by trawling which varies between areas. The history of seamount fisheries in the northern hemisphere is one of sequential collapse, and concerns about rapid decline of deepwater fish stocks in seamount fisheries in New Zealand and Australia suggests such habitat could be quite fragile, and trawling may have an effect on long term productivity. With increasing effort on finding new seamounts, there is urgency to this work in order to gain baseline data on an unfished situation.
Approaches to fishery management continue to evolve as understanding of the marine environment increases and attitudes change. There is now recognition that fisheries are part of an ecosystem and should not be managed in isolation. The growing awareness of the need to maintain wider ecosystem viability is moving us towards an integrated approach to fisheries and environmental management.
Commercial fisheries, including aquaculture
Despite the diversity in marine species found in the New Zealand EEZ, as few as 130 are fished commercially. Of these, only 43 species are commercially significant. The deepwater species (hoki, hake, ling, orange roughy, oreo dories, squid, and silver warehou) as well as spiny red rock lobster, paua (abalone), greenshell mussels, and snapper dominate the economics of the industry. The following graphs show the catch levels and the value of the catch for the commercial sector (excluding aquaculture) from 1990-1998.
The major species landed in the period 1995 to 1998 are:
The majority of fish exports are finfish (65 per cent). The shellfish industry's contribution to total fish exports is increasing, with an expanding aquaculture industry. Our major export markets are Japan (29 per cent of total), United States (20 per cent) and Australia (11 per cent). The seafood industry is diversifying into other markets in Asia and Europe.
In the 1970s, open access to fisheries resources and emphasis on increasing commercial harvest led to over-fishing, which impacted on fishstocks and returns to fishers. The extension of New Zealand control over the EEZ, coupled with new technology, meant that our fishing industry could expand to fish new species and areas. The introduction of the QMS in 1986 was partly aimed at addressing over-fishing.
This rights-based approach remains the primary mechanism for managing the commercial fisheries. This now applies to 43 species or species groups in 10 quota management areas (see map). The system uses Individual Transferable Quota (ITQs) as the principal means of constraining the commercial catch from each fishery within a sustainable level.
ITQ exist in perpetuity and are expressed as a proportion of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for each fishery. TACCs are a sub-set of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each fishery, after an allowance has been made for non-commercial fishing interests, namely Maori customary and recreational interests. All fisheries within the QMS are subject to management controls such as minimum legal sizes, closed seasons and areas, gear and method restrictions. These controls are used to complement the TACs as sustainability measures, or to mitigate the effects of fishing, or address conflict between stakeholder groups.
The creation of a well defined access right in the form of quota has provided commercial fishers with much stronger incentives to take a long term interest in the viability of fisheries resources, and invest in the recovery or enhancement of fisheries.
In addition to fishing against ITQ, fishers are required to hold fishing permits. Fishing permits are granted by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Fisheries and may be subject to appropriate fishing conditions. Quota holders cannot be denied permits, but must abide by the permit conditions.
There are some 117 commercial species currently managed outside the QMS by a system of permits and regulations. Commercial catches of some of these species are constrained by an overall catch limit, which can be competitive or allocated amongst individual fishers. At present there is a moratorium on the issue of new permits for non-QMS species to control effort prior to introducing these species into the QMS.
Aquaculture is based primarily on the farming of green-lipped mussels. Other important farmed species include pacific oyster, paua and salmon. Techniques are being developed to enable a variety of new species, like dredge oysters, kina, scallops, seaweed, snapper and sponges to be farmed. In the 1998 calendar year, exports of green-lipped mussels were valued at $118 million, ranking them as the fourth largest seafood export.
New Zealand Quota Management Areas
Recreational fishing, both marine and fresh water, is a popular activity. Surveys indicate that up to 20 per cent of the population engage in marine recreational fishing annually, gaining a variety of benefits, ranging from enjoyment and relaxation to sustenance for their families. Recreational fishing also contributes to the economy, for example, through generating business for equipment suppliers, charter boat operators and other tourist facilities. Research into the value of recreational fishing estimates the expenditure made by recreational fishers to catch five key recreational species to be nearly $1 billion per annum.
As the population concentration grows in areas such as Auckland there is increased pressure on the regional recreational resource.
While marine recreational fishers may catch at least 40 species, the main species are snapper, blue cod, kahawai, rock lobster, paua and scallops. In a relatively small number of fisheries, such as the snapper fishery off the north-east coast of the North Island, and the blue cod fishery at the top of the South Island, recreational catch makes up a large proportion of the total catch.
Many of the species taken by recreational fishers are fished in competition with the commercial fishing sector. Recreational fishers have strong, if not well defined, access rights to the fishery. Specifically, recreational interests in the fisheries resource are allowed for when the Minister of Fisheries sets or varies total allowable commercial catches for fish stocks.
At present the access to the resource by recreational fishers is managed using input controls. A variety of management controls apply, including daily catch limits, closure of areas, restrictions on fishing gear, minimum legal size limits, and closed seasons.
The introduction of the Quota Management System effectively alienated Maori from their fisheries rights secured by Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi, and required the Crown to settle the resulting claims in respect of Maori fisheries rights. The Deed of Settlement between the Crown and Maori, and the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992 which followed, saw the Crown's obligations to Maori in respect of fisheries specified in statute.
The fisheries settlement settled all Maori claims in respect of commercial fishing. The Settlement Act also contains key provisions relating to the recognition of non-commercial customary fishing rights, in accordance with the principles of the Treaty, and the development of customary fishing regulations. The Fisheries Act 1996 requires that all persons exercising or performing duties under the Act must act in a manner consistent with the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992.
As a result of the commercial settlement Maori, now own around 40 per cent of fish quota, and through joint ventures with other companies control over 60 per cent of quota. The commercial assets are currently held and managed by Te Ohu Kai Moana, which is tasked with developing an allocation model for distribution of the assets to iwi. Around 75 iwi may have the opportunity to become directly involved in the commercial fishing industry.
An important part of the fisheries settlement was the placing of ongoing obligations on the Crown in respect of non-commercial customary fishing rights. Customary fishing rights belong to tangata whenua, being the whanau, hapu or iwi that holds manawhenua manamoana, or traditional authority, over the area of land or sea concerned. Customary fishing rights not only govern access to fish, but also determine the right to manage fishing activity.
The non-commercial interests of tangata whenua are also recognised in the Fisheries Act 1996, which requires the input and participation of tangata whenua into all decisions regarding the setting of sustainability measures for the fisheries in their area.
A significant component of the settlement of fisheries claims in relation to non-commercial fishing is making regulations to recognise and provide for customary food gathering by Maori, and the special relationship between tangata whenua and places of customary food gathering importance.
The kaitiaki, or guardians of the tangata whenua, manage the exercise of customary fishing rights. Regulations covering customary fishing provide for kaitiaki of the tangata whenua to issue customary fishing authorisations for fishing within their area. The regulations do not remove the right of tangata whenua to catch their recreational limits under the recreational fishing regulations, nor do they provide for commercial fishing.
The customary fishing regulations also provide for the establishment of mataitai reserves, being traditional fishing grounds and areas of special significance to tangata whenua, with tangata whenua managing all non-commercial fishing in these mataitai.
The customary right to manage fishing activity is also exercisable through the establishment of taiapure/local fisheries areas. The taiapure mechanism would generally be applied to the management of larger expanses of fisheries waters than would be the case for mataitai reserves, which would generally be applied to the management of smaller traditional fishing grounds, such as a reefs.
Existing international obligations provide the framework for fisheries management in New Zealand. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the centrepiece of international law. It defines the extent of the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone, and outlines the rights and duties of both the coastal state and other nations in relation to these areas.
These rights are given in the context of obligations and responsibilities to protect the marine environment. For example, the use of natural resources must be subject to the principles of sustainability.
The Convention also describes the rights and status of operations on the high seas. The expansion of New Zealand fishing activity into the high seas is an area of rapid development for a number of New Zealand companies.
Almost all other international fisheries arrangements acknowledge and are subordinate to UNCLOS. New Zealand has signed or been a party to the development of a number of international agreements that relate to fishing.
Both UNCLOS and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement provide a framework for regional fisheries arrangements. New Zealand is a party to a number of existing regional fisheries arrangements, and a number of new arrangements are currently being developed, with states such as Australia, South Africa and Pacific Island countries.
New Zealand's involvement in these arrangements is twofold - enhancing economic opportunities while ensuring sustainability. We have a responsibility to prevent Southern Hemisphere fish stocks undergoing the intense exploitation that is occurring with many Northern Hemisphere fisheries. At the same time, New Zealand must secure its economic interests in the fisheries covered by such arrangements to safeguard the availability of ongoing or future economic opportunities.
The New Zealand fishing industry is heavily dependent on world markets for its financial viability. Good economic performance by the industry through improved market access are expected to have flow on effects in terms of efficient resource use and sustainability in New Zealand fisheries.
New Zealand will make significant gains from multilateral trade liberalisation arrangements. Trade distorting subsidies impact on resource sustainability, particularly when ineffective fisheries management regimes are in place. New Zealand has one of the few unsubsidised fishing industries in the world.
New Zealand is currently contributing to a range of studies though Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which will feed into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) process for trade liberalisation for fish and fish products.