Fishing on the high seas
Outside of New Zealand's 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the high seas. There, vessels must fly the flag of a country they are registered to. The only laws that apply are those of the vessel's "flag state", and any international obligations that country has signed up to.
High seas fisheries and highly migratory fish, like tuna, that swim throughout EEZs and on the high seas are managed through agreements that set up Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs).
It is best to include all the countries involved in the fishery in the agreement, because anyone not signed up will not be bound by the RFMO's rules.
Sometimes companies change their vessel's flag state to a country not signed up to a particular RFMO.
This means they don't have to obey the rules of that high seas fishery. Such unregulated fishing makes it hard for people trying to manage high seas fisheries, because it means they can only control and get information from some of the fishers.
We can all do better in managing the world's high seas fisheries. Towards this, New Zealand is part of an international task force to tackle Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. This involves government ministers from Britain, Australia, Chile, Canada, Namibia and New Zealand.
New Zealand works to improve management of high seas fisheries.
We also work to improve high seas management through international bodies like the United Nations" Food and Agriculture Organization, and through RFMOs. These include the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.
New Zealand works to negotiate new regional agreements in fisheries we are involved in. One of these has been negotiated recently for the Southern Indian Ocean, where our companies are involved in the orange roughy fishery. The government wants these interests protected, and the fisheries there well managed. The Southern Indian Ocean RFMO should be created in 2006.
Another new agreement in the early stages of negotiation will cover high seas areas of the Tasman Sea and South Pacific Ocean. When finished, this will create a South Pacific RFMO.
Fish do not respect lines on a map, and we know that some species like tuna, sharks and swordfish move all over the Pacific. This includes New Zealand waters, where we have important commercial and recreational fisheries for these species. Catches in other parts of the Pacific can affect what we catch here. So it is important, as a member of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, that we are involved in negotiations on how these resources are managed and shared amongst all the people and nations involved in the fisheries.
New Zealand also works closely with its Pacific Island neighbours, towards developing and managing their fisheries in a sustainable way.
It is important to our integrity as a fishing nation that our companies and vessels follow international rules and agreements we have signed up to. So New Zealand controls the activities of our fishing companies and citizens on the high seas.
Proposed boundaries for the new South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation