5. FISHERIES SECTOR
New Zealand’s fisheries resources are valuable and of considerable interest to a wide range of New Zealanders. Māori have strong cultural ties with fisheries, which are recognised through the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992. 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 (EEZ) is the fourth largest in the world at approximately 1.3 million square nautical miles. A characteristic of the EEZ is its depth, with 72% in waters more than 1,000 metres deep, 22% between 200-1000 metres, and only 6% less than 200 metres. Fishing within the EEZ is heavily reliant on species found in waters at depths ranging from 200-1200 metres, rather than species found in shallower waters.
Despite the size of the New Zealand EEZ, our fisheries resources are not as abundant or productive as in many other parts of the world, due to factors such as a narrow continental shelf, a lack of nutrient upwellings, and being on the periphery of the range of highly migratory species such as tuna. Nevertheless our marine ecosystems and species are highly diverse. About 8,000 marine species have been found in New Zealand waters, including 964 species of fish, 2,000 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.
The commercial fisheries sector is New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner. In 2003, the export value from the fishing industry was $1.2 billion, representing a revenue reduction of 20% over 2002. Exports account for by far the largest proportion of the product with about 88% by value being exported. The industry is also a large employer, involving some 26,000 people through direct employment and flow on effects. 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 cost recovery.