This briefing provides an overview of the fisheries sector and the key issues likely to come before the Minister of Fisheries over the next three years. It details the contribution of the Ministry of Fisheries to the Government's role in the fisheries sector, and its marine biosecurity responsibilities.
The Minister of Fisheries, along with the Ministry of Fisheries (Mfish), is accountable for the sustainable utilisation and cost-effective administration of New Zealand's fisheries resources in accordance with domestic and international legal obligations.
Fisheries management in New Zealand deals with a resource that is ecologically, socially, culturally and economically important to the country as a whole; acknowledges the customary use and management rights of tangata whenua; 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 in the high seas; and deals with the underlying tensions between groups interested in fishing and those groups concerned primarily with conservation of resources.
Fisheries management relates to the relationship New Zealanders have with the ocean and their environment, and their aspirations for the future of that environment. The fisheries sector is characterised by conflict between various participants who have competing values and objectives. The contentious nature of the issues is demonstrated by the level of litigation with over 20 cases, mostly by way of judicial reviews, currently on the books. The sector has also been at the forefront of innovation and change, with considerable ongoing legislative amendment.
The operating environment for the Minister of Fisheries and Mfish can be very difficult. Our fisheries and their management are under ongoing public scrutiny. Five particular factors impact on the operating environment:
! lack of consensus on the long-term direction of fisheries management ! conflict between recreational, customary and commercial fishers over access to fisheries ! those in the sector having firm views on fisheries management and not being reluctant to make those views known, including through the courts and the political system ! lack of public awareness and understanding of fisheries management and the management framework, resulting in ill-informed debate and lower than desired public support ! Mfish and stakeholder capability, capacity and information to make the best use out of existing legal frameworks.
On the other hand the sector has a very well developed legal and strategic framework against which complex issues in the sector can be managed.
The Minister is central to the way in which fisheries management issues are addressed and reconciled and is in a position to provide leadership and direction within the fisheries sector.
Domestically, the Fisheries portfolio has links with the Agriculture, Biosecurity, Conservation, Economic Development, Environment, Food Safety, Māori Affairs,
New Zealand Defence Forces, Police and Treaty Settlements portfolios. The portfolio also has an international focus resulting in links with the Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Trade Negotiations portfolios.