The Minister responsible for fisheries is accountable for the management and administration of New Zealand's fisheries resources in accordance with the domestic and international legal obligations relating to fisheries. This places the Minister at the centre of a sector encompassing aspects of all the significant economic, social and cultural issues facing New Zealand. The Minister is responsible for providing leadership and direction within a sector which is characterised by conflict between various participants in the sector and which has historically been at the forefront of change.
Economically the fisheries sector is significant as New Zealand's fourth largest export earner and in the vanguard of trade reform. It has also been the context in which many issues relating to the relationship between Iwi and the Crown have been first addressed and by which that relationship has been significantly changed - such as the Deed of Settlement and the introduction of customary fishing regulations. Fisheries management also relates to the relationship New Zealanders have with the ocean and their environment and their aspirations for the future of that environment. The Minister is central to the way in which all of these issues are addressed and reconciled.
The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) is the principal adviser to the Minister and also advises the Minister responsible for biosecurity on marine biosecurity matters.
We are a natural resource management department with responsibilities for:
- providing for the utilisation of the fishery resource while ensuring sustainability and contributing to the health of the wider aquatic environment
- minimising risks to the marine environment from unwanted organisms
- developing frameworks and managing processes that ensure the Crown delivers to Maori on its Treaty of Waitangi Article 2 fisheries obligations
- developing frameworks and managing processes that will contribute to the efficient use of resources across the fisheries sector
- ensuring the integrity of fisheries management systems.
The Ministry was established on 1 July 1995 and currently has 274 staff. Its 1999/2000 Estimates night output class budget, including GST, was $62.714 million. Since that time, the Vote has received approved increases to $63.617 million to reflect the estimated results from the fisheries research tender round.
Approximately $25 million of the total budget (40 per cent) is represented by registry and research services, which are delivered under contract to MFish.
Cost recovery levies and transaction charges for Vote Fisheries applied to the commercial fisheries sector amounted to $37.181 million at Budget night. More recently, as a result of approved changes in the Crown Contribution Rules and reductions to reflect the results of the research tender round, the cost recovery levies have been reduced by $3.546 million (GST inclusive) to $33.635 million.
Fisheries management in New Zealand:
- relates to a resource that is economically important to the country as a whole
- acknowledges and provides for the rights of tangata whenua to take for customary purposes
- reflects the fact that as an island nation and signatory to the United Nations Law of the Sea Conventions, we have international obligations relating to fisheries in New Zealand waters and for those on the high seas
- deals with the underlying tensions between the groups interested in fish harvesting and those concerned primarily with conservation of resources
- attracts considerable interest on the part of the general public.
Fisheries management decisions are governed by the Fisheries Act 1996, the purpose of which is to provide for utilisation of fisheries resources while ensuring sustainability. The Act introduced a number of significant changes to the previous legal framework, notably the environmental and information principles, which essentially require decisions to based on the best available information and to take account of the wider ecosystem in which fisheries exist. The Act also requires decisions to be consistent with New Zealand's international obligations in relation to fisheries and the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992, and to provide for the input and participation of tangata whenua when making sustainability decisions.
To date, fisheries management has operated around centralised consultative processes leading to statutory decisions made by either the Minister or the Chief Executive, for example on matters relating to the setting of total allowable catches, on proposed fisheries regulations, on fisheries services and on cost recovery levies. As a consequence of the 1999 amendments to the Fisheries Act 1996, the fisheries management legislative framework is more flexible and less complex.
Domestically, the Fisheries portfolio has linkages with the Conservation, Commerce, Environment, Maori Affairs and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations portfolios in particular. The portfolio also has an international focus, both multilaterally and also bilaterally (notably with Australia and Japan) meaning that there are also strong linkages with the Foreign Affairs and International Trade portfolios. With the ratification of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement the international focus of the Fisheries portfolio is likely to increase.
Our fisheries resources
New Zealand's fisheries resources are valuable and of considerable interest to a wide range of New Zealanders. Maori have strong cultural ties with fisheries and these are recognised in common law, in legislation and through the provisions of Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi. Some 20 per cent of New Zealand's population are recreational fishers. Fisheries matters attract considerable interest from environmentalists and the wider public.
The New Zealand exclusive economic zone is the fourth largest in the world at approximately 1.3 million square miles. Commercially, the fisheries are valuable to New Zealand's export economy. In the 1998 calendar year, the value of production from the fishing industry was in the order of $1.4 billion, including aquaculture production, which itself was worth approximately $118 million. Exports account for by far the largest proportion of the product with some 91 per cent by value being exported.
The industry is also a large employer, involving some 10,000 people.
Fisheries are a common pool resource, which requires government intervention to avoid the potential for overexploitation from the demands of competing levels of commercial, recreational and customary Maori fishing activity. This intervention can be direct, such as the imposition of regulatory controls on fishing, or indirect through the establishment of legal frameworks that create rights and responsibilities for users to manage the resource sustainably. The rights based framework has been developed as the basis on which fisheries rights can best be managed.
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 of 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.
New Zealand has a very good commercial fisheries management regime using the quota management system and individual transferable quotas as tools to control the catch. Quota is allocated in perpetuity and is fully transferable, subject to certain restrictions on aggregation and foreign ownership. Some commercially valuable species are outside the QMS. These are still subject to catch regimes. By world standards, the New Zealand system for management of fisheries is considered to be at the forefront.
The customary right has been defined and we are now developing operational processes and systems to manage that right. While aquaculture rights are defined, there is a need for further policy work aimed at clarifying this right. Recreational fisheries rights are implicitly managed by the Crown.
Unlike most other countries, the New Zealand industry receives no government subsidies and, in addition, makes a contribution to the costs of fisheries management through a unique cost recovery process.
The operating environment
The operating environment for the Minister and the Ministry can be very difficult. Our fisheries and their management are under ongoing scrutiny from the general public and also from stakeholders.
Four particular factors impact on the operating environment:
- Lack of consensus on the long-term direction of fisheries management between stakeholders and others with an interest in the fishery. The Ministry has sought to take the lead in developing this consensus through documents such as Changing Course - Towards Fisheries 2010 and the Five Year Strategic Plan, a process which is ongoing.
- Stakeholders have firm views on fisheries management and are not reluctant to make those views known, including through the courts and political processes.
- Shortcomings in the legislative framework, which to a large extent were addressed through the fisheries reforms enacted by Parliament in September 1999.
- The Crown, through both the Minister and the Chief Executive has, to date, been central to fisheries management statutory processes, decision-making and the delivery of services. A significant portion of the cost of these processes and services is recovered from the fishing industry, but, until now, the industry has had been confined to input into the management decision making process. More recently, the contracting of registry services and the legislative changes enabling devolution of these services and the direct purchase of other services will provide a basis for increased industry involvement.
In September 1996 the Ministry released Changing Course - Towards Fisheries 2010, which set out a framework for developing a strategy to manage the fishery into the future. The document was a starting point for discussions with stakeholders on the future management of fisheries.
In 1998 the Ministry released its first Five Year Strategic Plan - the overarching document to guide the way MFish will contribute to fisheries management and the way we must operate, as well as the skills and values we must develop to deliver on our strategic direction.
The following key principles form the basis of the MFish strategic framework for managing fisheries:
- Ecological sustainability: All harvesting should occur within constraints that ensure the use of the resource is sustainable and the adverse impacts of fishing on the environment are controlled.
- Treaty of Waitangi: Fisheries should be managed in a manner that delivers on the Crown's obligations to Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act and Fisheries Act 1996.
- Participation: Stakeholders should be given the opportunity to participate in government decision-making processes.
- Efficient resource allocation: Fisheries should be managed to enable resources to be efficiently allocated, through the creation of rights and responsibilities for users, internalisation of management and environmental costs, cost-effective delivery of services and accountable collective management of fisheries.
MFish sees its role as delivering on the Crown's contribution to achieving sustainable fisheries in a manner that enables and encourages stakeholders to assume responsibility for their contribution to achieving sustainable fisheries.
A fisheries management regime that is effective and delivers the greatest benefits, both commercial and non-commercial, to New Zealand, relies on an appropriate shared responsibility between the government and stakeholders.
Stakeholders include customary, recreational, commercial and environmental interests. The main organisations representing these interests are iwi, New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, Te Ohu Kai Moana (Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission), New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council, Environment and Conservation Organisations, and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
Concerns with the rigidity and inflexibility in the then fisheries management regime led the Minister in 1998 to initiate an independent review of the operation of the quota management system. This review led to the amendments to the Fisheries Act 1996 enacted by Parliament in September of this year. These amendments increase operational flexibility in the management of commercial fishing through:
- simplifying the catch-balancing regime with the aim of increasing voluntary compliance, including a shift from criminal prosecution to civil penalties as the main disincentive to over-fishing of a catch entitlement
- a simplified cost recovery regime
- providing for the integration of fisheries management decisions through the Minister approving fisheries plans developed by stakeholders and/or the Ministry for individual fisheries
- providing for the use of infringement notices for low-level offending, better gradation of the application of forfeiture to reflect severity of offending and clarification of the duties of companies and principals for the actions of employees and agents
- enabling responsibility for registry services to be transferred from the Ministry to a quota owner organisation.
Consequently, the legislative environment for fisheries management is now more flexible and responsive than it has been in the past. New tools now available include fisheries plans, the direct purchasing of research and the revised cost recovery regime. The full benefit of increased flexibility will become available when the Fisheries Act 1996 is fully operational.
Customary Maori fishing regulations, firstly in the South Island and then the North and Chatham Islands are now in force. These regulations are a key component of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act.
The 1999 amendments to the Fisheries Act also created a framework to control New Zealand fishing outside the Exclusive Economic Zone and manage international fisheries in co-operation with other states. With the ratification of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, the international focus of the Fisheries portfolio is likely to increase.
A further issue is the need to examine the organisational design, including processes, of MFish to ensure that we can best discharge our responsibilities to the Minister. In October 1999, we initiated a major internal project that will involve all staff, to review organisational design options. Internal change is expected to take place over the next 18 months.
Ongoing-day-to-day fisheries management responsibilities are largely determined by statute and will continue. However, at this stage there is a need for us to focus more upon the implementation of recent changes, rather than make further changes, apart from improvements to aquaculture and recreational fishing rights.
From 1 July 1997, MFish became responsible for managing the risks to the marine environment that arise from the discharge of ballast water and hull foulings from international shipping. Our core responsibilities in the marine biosecurity area relate to:
- ballast water and hull de-fouling policy
- ballast water inspection services at the border
- limited surveillance in the marine environment
- leading incursion response in the marine environment
- developing a national pest management strategy for Undaria Pinnatifida (Japanese seaweed - wakame)
- some international advocacy for consistent ballast water approaches.
MFish has a number of key issues to be resolved over the period 2000-2003. These are detailed below.
Legislation is required to bring South Island eels into the quota management system by 1 October 2000, in accordance with the Ngai Tahu Deed of Settlement. A key issue is whether existing permit holders should be compensated for any reduction in their catch history rights arising from the Crown's obligation to provide a 20 per cent share of the commercial fishery to Maori.
Under the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992, 20 per cent of all quota in new species to be introduced into the QMS are to be allocated to Maori. The Fisheries Act 1996 precludes those fisheries listed in the Fourth Schedule of that Act (including eel fisheries) from being introduced to the QMS in the event that the provision of the 20 per cent allocation to Maori were to require allocations to existing commercial operators to be reduced in order for the overall commercial catch to remain within a sustainable limit. The fisheries remaining on the Schedule are developed to such an extent that some reduction of allocations to existing operators is likely.
This issue must be considered by the Primary Production Select Committee early in 2000. The necessary legislation, which will also need to address quota allocation issues, must be enacted by July 2000 if the 1 October 2000 date is to be met. At the same time it would also be desirable to address whether or not compensation should be paid when other species, listed on the Fourth Schedule to the Fisheries Act 1996, in addition to South Island eels, are introduced into the quota management system.
There will also be the need to resolve issues related to orange roughy in the Tasman Sea. New Zealand and Australia agreed in May 1999 to ban fishing for orange roughy on the South Tasman Rise until 28 February 2000. The arrangement to ban fishing was concluded by exchange of letters between Australian and New Zealand Ministers.
Redress for New Zealand's fishing activity from February 1999, when the previous Arrangement expired, to May 1999 is under discussion. A resolution of this issue is required prior to 1 March 2000, when a new Arrangement will be finalised.
Australian officials have indicated that they are prepared to take the issue of redress to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) if no resolution on the redress is forthcoming from New Zealand.
The next six months
The following issues will need attention in the next six months:
- Developing a framework for the integrated management of New Zealand's marine interests. This work has commenced in conjunction with other departments and will require the Minister responsible for fisheries to be involved in a collaborative way with his or her colleagues. Officials are required to report to the appropriate Cabinet Committee by the end of March 2000.
- Consideration of any proposal from Te Ohu Kai Moana to allocate pre-settlement assets. No proposal can be submitted before the completion of current court actions, which is unlikely before April 2000.
In addition, Ministerial decision making under the various fisheries management statutory processes will also be required over the next six months. The indicative timetable includes:
- Advice to sector groups on issues to be included in the sustainability measures process (for the fishing year commencing 1 April 2000) and providing preliminary views on proposals to address these issues - December 1999.
- Approval of discussion paper on fisheries services for 2000-2001 - January 2000.
- Discussion with sector groups and officials on sustainability measures to be effective from 1 April 2000 (eg rock lobster) - February 2000.
- Decisions on Total Allowable Catch and Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TAC/TACC) for fishing year commencing 1 April and approval of regulatory proposals - February 2000.
- Cabinet process for approval of regulatory proposals - February 2000.
- Advice to sector groups on issues to be included in the sustainability measures process (for the fishing year commencing 1 October 2000) and providing preliminary views on proposals to address these issues - June 2000.
- Decisions on fisheries services for the financial year commencing 1 July 2000 - June 2000.
The next three years
Priorities needing the attention of the Minister and MFish over the period 2000 to 2003 are:
- Implementing the Fisheries Act 1996, particularly Parts II and III relating to the "new" purposes and principles and sustainability measures.
- Progressing changes to the aquaculture management regime.
- Redesigning the compliance systems and processes to support the more decentralised fisheries management arrangements under the Fisheries Act 1996.
- Progressively changing the Ministry's processes and ways of working (that is, organisational design) to ensure that we can best discharge our responsibilities to the Minister.
- Progressing work to enable the devolution of registry services.
In addition there will be related issues associated with the above:
- Facilitating the development of fisheries plans.
- Facilitating the direct purchase of research.
Improving recreational fisheries management and rights definition