The Quota Management System
Fishing is big business. In 2005, New Zealand companies caught and sold around 1.2 billion dollars worth of fish.
Much of the industry's success comes from how we manage our commercial fisheries.
To fish commercially in New Zealand you must have a fishing permit and access to someone's share in that fishery. These shares - or quota - can be bought or sold, entitling their owner to a share of the commercial catch.
Many other countries set annual catch limits for their commercial fisheries, but only a few countries split these into tradable shares.
Where there are limits, but no tradable shares, fishers are in a race to catch as much as they can before the limits are reached.
When fishers focus on quantity, not quality, their catch might not be stored or handled as well as it could be. So it may not be worth what it could be. Also, when fishers focus on quantity, fish often all the hit the market at the same time, again reducing prices.
Our system stops this race, and has improved the value New Zealand gets from its fisheries. Each quota owner knows how much fish they are entitled to at the start of each fishing year. So they can plan ahead.
Some owners simply sell off their entitlement each year to fishers and fishing companies. Others work to get more value from it by fishing and marketing the catch themselves, or getting someone else to do this for them.
Each year, the government sets a commercial catch limit for each quota species. The limit may vary from year to year, depending on the advice of fisheries managers and scientists. But quota owners have the security of knowing what their proportion of that catch limit will be.
This gives businesses the confidence to invest in costly vessels to process fish at sea, in onshore factories, in staff, and in global marketing. These investments have helped improve the value we get from our fisheries.
All commercial fishers must land their catch through a "licensed fish receiver". They must also report catch weights to the Ministry of Fisheries. The licensed fish receiver also reports the weight of the catch.
That way the government can check catches are being reported honestly.
If fishers land a commercial catch without the catch entitlement to cover it, they pay a penalty. This helps stop over-fishing.
When a new species comes into the quota system, its catch limit is set. The government then decides how to share the catch between commercial and non-commercial fishers. Quota shares in the commercial fishery may be divided amongst fishers or companies who have been involved in the fishery. Or they may be sold through an open tender.
The government charges all quota owners their share of the costs of fisheries management. This includes researching and monitoring fish stocks and the environmental effects of fishing, and law enforcement.