An industry grows
New Zealand set up its 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 1977.
At that time, our fishing industry was largely an inshore affair. Offshore waters, beyond our 12 nautical mile Territorial Sea, were fished by Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean, and Soviet vessels. But the new EEZ meant these vessels had to make arrangements with New Zealand if they wanted to keep fishing here.
Some New Zealand fishing companies saw opportunities in this, and made arrangements with foreign fishing companies. At the time, these foreign companies were the only people who owned the big vessels needed to fish offshore.
When the quota system came in, New Zealanders who had arrangements with foreign companies soon found they owned a big share of the offshore fishery. Many went on to invest in the vessels to fish this catch and onshore factories to process it.
Today, many New Zealand companies still use foreign vessels to catch their quota in our offshore waters.
New Zealand's inshore fisheries reached crisis-point in the late 1970's. Government subsidies and high export prices had attracted more and more fishers with better boats and gear. This, and some ineffective management, led to species like snapper, scallop and rock lobster being over-fished. Fishers were worried; as was the government. So the Quota Management System was brought in.
The first species came into the quota system in 1986. We now have 92 species in the system, with more to be added in October 2006.
As most of our fish is exported, New Zealand fishing has changed in response to global markets.
The export values of paua and hoki have increased over the past two decades, while other fisheries, like snapper, have decreased in export value over time.
Today our most valuable commercial fisheries are: squid, hoki, orange roughy, and ling (offshore); and rock lobster and paua (inshore).
New Zealand companies also have fishing interests outside our economic zone. These include the waters just beyond our EEZ, as well as the southern ocean and Antarctic, the Central and Western Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and the Southern Atlantic Ocean.