1.4 Where we are now
New Zealand's fisheries management regime has given rise to:
An internationally competitive fishing industry
The fisheries sector is New Zealand's fourth largest export earner but has undergone a significant decline in returns in the last twelve months. Export revenues that peaked at NZ$1.5 billion in 2001 and 2002 declined by 20% to NZ$1.2 billion in 2003, primarily as a result of the rapid strengthening of the New Zealand dollar against the US dollar. Most fish export sales are denominated in US dollars, regardless of market. The proportion of export sales originating from aquaculture remained stable at 15%. The industry estimates that if the New Zealand dollar retains its current international strength, revenues could decline further by another 15% in 2004 to little more than NZ$1 billion.
The industry operates under the pioneering and highly successful quota management system without subsidies and contributes to the cost of fisheries management via both cost recovery and direct delivery. The sector employs 26,000 people (10,000 directly) and makes an important contribution to regional economies. For example, in 1996 the fishing industry in the Nelson region is estimated to have generated a $383 million contribution to GDP and employed 5,440 people.
Resolution of customary fishing claims
New Zealand is one of the first countries to comprehensively address resolution of aboriginal claims to fishing. The 1992 Deed of Settlement gave Maori a substantial stake
in commercial fishing and provided for the non-commercial customary fishing and management rights of tangata whenua.
The majority of our commercial fisheries are harvested at a sustainable level. Recovery strategies are in place for all stocks known to be depleted. Work is continuing to develop new frameworks and standards consistent with our environmental focus, and to improve our knowledge about the state of stocks and environmental impacts of fishing.
These outcomes have not occurred by chance. Since 1986, New Zealand has successfully used market instruments and science-based advice to manage the use of our fisheries resources. This includes the quota management system for the commercial sector. The regime is innovative and we are the focus of considerable international attention as other nations seek to resolve the difficult issues of sustainable fisheries utilisation. Under the quota management system, the sector has evolved from one focused on a race to fish to one increasingly focused on investment in market developments and the resource, commensurate with the ability to assume collective accountability for fisheries management.
Benchmarked against other OECD nations, we have a very efficient management regime, but also a relatively low level of government investment in fisheries management. For example, the ratio of net government expenditure on fisheries management to the annual landed value of the fishery resource averaged 17 % in OECD countries in 1997. The New Zealand ratio was 4 %. The corresponding percentages for other OECD countries with credible management regimes include: Australia - 9 % (before taking into account expenditure by State Governments); Canada " 25 %; the United Kingdom " 13 %; Iceland " 4 %; Japan " 21 %; Norway " 12 %; the United States " 24 %.
The management regime has laid a useful foundation, but challenges remain to ensure that we can achieve the goal of maximising the value New Zealanders obtain through sustainable use of fisheries resources. In particular we need to improve the environmental performance of the fisheries sector, improve collective accountability for fisheries management, and invest in capability within the sector including in Mfish. Progress in these areas will take time.
Progress relies on new information, altered fishing practices and values, development of mutual trust, and consensus building skills. Underpinning this will be legislative changes to enable new institutional frameworks to evolve.