The Ministry is planning to significantly increase the use of fisheries plans as a fisheries management tool in the short to medium term. As outlined in the Statement of Intent, the Ministry is committed to working with stakeholders to better define what is required from fisheries (objectives), and to clearly link the management interventions and services to those objectives. Fisheries plans are seen as an important mechanism to improve stakeholder involvement in – and ownership of – fisheries management in New Zealand.
The Ministry has committed to develop 2 to 3 fisheries plans in 2005/06 to trial this new approach. In the development of a fisheries plan, the Ministry will work with tangata whenua and stakeholders to build consensus on objectives, develop a risk assessment to evaluate management strategies, and then specify the services and management measures that will be applied to the fisheries plan. A fisheries plan will bring together the harvest plan, monitoring, research, enforcement, and other elements of fisheries management; show the links between these elements and will allow the Ministry to better prioritise its limited resources.
Fisheries Policy is taking the lead in the development of the framework to guide these fisheries plans. Then, Fisheries Operations will lead the development of the trial fisheries plans. Decisions are still to be finalised to determine which fisheries plans should be developed as trials and the management unit on which fisheries plans should be based. Once the 2 or 3 options for plans have been identified, regional Fisheries Operations staff will begin discussions with stakeholder groups to define the objectives. The risk assessment methodology will then be tailored to assess risk against the specific objectives for the plan. The Ministry expects that plans will lead to broader consensus between sector groups; ultimately the Minister will need to approve the plan and therefore may be required to balance and make decisions on irreconcilable demands. The finalised fisheries plan will then form the basis of advice to the Minister on management decisions, and guide delivery of Ministry services, for the relevant stocks or areas. Once approved, the Fisheries Act requires the Minister to take it into account in future management decisions.
Fisheries plans will in most cases be facilitated by government, and developed in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. However, development of fisheries plans may also be led by tangata whenua or stakeholder groups, although development of such plans will need to be primarily resourced by tangata whenua or stakeholder interests themselves. Fisheries plans developed by stakeholders independent of government allow stakeholders to act collectively to assume greater responsibility for managing fisheries. Fisheries Operations will continue to evaluate any fisheries plans submitted by stakeholders for Ministerial approval under s.11A of the Fisheries Act. The evaluation process has been established, and it will ensure that the proposed objectives and measures are consistent with Ministry obligations.
The processes of developing and evaluating fisheries plans will run alongside the ongoing work of managing fisheries; the biannual sustainability rounds will continue to function, to ensure that key sustainability and utilisation issues for particular stocks are appropriately managed. In addition to the 2-3 plans used as trial plans, work will continue on completing a small number of plans already under way.