New Zealand’s fisheries and aquatic environment are national taonga. They represent a valuable source of cultural, social, economic and environmental well-being for the nation.
Fisheries and the aquatic environment require careful stewardship to ensure their value is maintained for current and future generations. Too much fishing has depleted fisheries in many parts of the world, and the aquatic environment has been damaged by use of inappropriate fishing methods. Worldwide, fishery managers face common challenges in their attempts to manage fisheries sustainably. These include conflict over allocation between users, too many fishing vessels, increasing demand for fish and fish products, imprecise and expensive stock assessment methods, changing environmental conditions, incomplete monitoring and, in many fisheries, high levels of non-compliance.
Fisheries resources must be shared among those who derive legitimate value from them – including customary, recreational and commercial fishers, and non-extractive users such as people who enjoy observing fish in their natural environment or people who value knowing that our fisheries and aquatic environment are in good health. Those who have the right to use fisheries resources also have responsibilities. Responsibilities include using fisheries in a sustainable manner, protecting the aquatic environment, and taking only their share of the available yield. Fisheries in international waters and those that straddle or move between different national jurisdictions present the additional challenge of sharing resources between fishers from different countries. Current generations must also share fisheries resources with future generations since some adverse effects of fishing may only be reversible over a number of human generations.
Fisheries management in New Zealand deals with a resource that is ecologically, socially, culturally and economically important to the country as a whole.
- It acknowledges the customary use and management rights of tangata whenua.
- It reflects the fact that, as an island nation and signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we have international obligations relating to fisheries in New Zealand waters and in the high seas.
- It 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 tension between various participants who have competing values and objectives. The sector has also been at the forefront of innovation and change, with considerable ongoing legislative amendment.
Five particular factors impact on the operating environment:
- divergent views on the long-term direction of oceans and fisheries management
- different views on appropriate access to fisheries for recreational, customary and commercial fishers
- users of fisheries 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 resulting in ill-informed debate and lowerthan- desired public support
- the Ministry, tangata whenua and stakeholders having insufficient capability, capacity and information to optimise management of fisheries.
Approaches to fisheries management continue to evolve as understanding of the marine environment increases and attitudes change. There is growing recognition of the significant effects on the aquatic environment that fishing can cause. The Ministry is responding by increasing its focus on assessing and managing the environmental effects of fishing.
The last 30 years
Management of New Zealand fisheries has changed greatly in the last 30 years. The main changes have been designed to avoid overfishing, improve efficiency, increase the value obtained from fisheries, and address concerns about Maori fishing rights.
Key developments are listed below.
- In 1978 New Zealand established its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), from which time it assumed management control of all fishing in the EEZ. New Zealand was at the forefront of development of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which it was possible to establish a 200 nautical mile EEZ.
- In 1986 the Quota Management System (QMS) was established and applied to manage most major New Zealand fisheries. Under the QMS individual transferable quotas are used to allocate commercial fishing rights.
- In 1992 Maori fishing claims arising from the Treaty of Waitangi were settled. The settlement provided Maori with a stake in New Zealand’s fishing industry and provided for ongoing non-commercial customary fishing rights.
- In 1994 a comprehensive cost recovery programme was implemented requiring the commercial sector to pay the full costs of the services that support their fishing and aquaculture activities.
- Since 1999 there has been provision for approved service providers to supply specified fisheries services required by government. Consistent with this approach, registry services have been provided by an industry-owned company, Commercial Fisheries Services Ltd (FishServe) since 2001.
- By October 2005 most significant fisheries will have been introduced into the QMS, with nearly 60 species brought in since 2001. Speces comprising 95% of the total commercial harvest will then be managed in the QMS.
Where are we today?
These and other developments have resulted in New Zealand being considered a leader in quota-based fisheries management.
Our fisheries management regime has given rise to:
The majority of our commercial fisheries are harvested at a sustainable level. Recovery strategies are in place for all stocks known to be depleted. The high cost of obtaining information to assess the state of fish stocks with enough precision to ensure sustainable management continues to be a major challenge for scientists, managers and stakeholders.
Managing environmental effects of fishing
New Zealand has put in place legislation intended to ensure fishing does not unreasonably affect the aquatic environment. The Government has developed a range of initiatives to address specific issues related to the effects of fishing, including marine protected areas, fishing method restrictions, observer programmes, marine mammal bycatch limits, and requirements to use bycatch mitigation devices. To date, these initiatives have been largely reactive and lack overall coordination. This has led to concern, both within the Ministry and by fisheries stakeholders, that the Ministry should do more to proactively and comprehensively manage the environmental effects of fishing. There are opportunities for more cooperative initiatives between the Ministry and the industry to cover a broader range of environmental effects.
A valuable seafood industry
The fisheries and aquaculture sector is a major export earner, employs 10,000 people directly, and makes an important contribution to regional economies. But profitability has declined significantly in recent years.
Export revenues peaked at NZ$1.5 billion (FOB) in the 2002 calendar year, but declined to NZ$1.2 billion in 2003, primarily as a result of the rapid strengthening of the New Zealand dollar against the US dollar. Provisional 2004 figures indicate only a slight increase in export revenues. In response to declining profitability, companies are reviewing their operations, including removing fishing vessels from the fleet, consolidating with other companies, and considering options for processing fish in other countries.
The proportion of export sales originating from aquaculture has remained stable at around 15%.
Resolution of customary fishing claims
New Zealand was one of the first countries to resolve customary claims to fishing in a comprehensive manner.
The 1992 Deed of Settlement provided Maori with a
substantial stake in commercial fishing and provided for the non-commercial customary fishing managed by tangata whenua, and rights for tangata whenua to have input and participation in certain sustainability processes. A similar approach has been adopted in the Ma – ori Commercial
Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004, which will give Maori a substantial stake in marine farming. More work remains to be done to complete implementation of customary fishing regulations. More Kaitiaki need to be appointed and effective working relationships need to be established between the Ministry and more iwi and haputo enable iwi and hapu- to have input and participation into relevant Ministry processes.
A high quality and popular marine recreational fishery
Approximately 20% of New Zealanders participate in recreational fishing. Recreational fishing also attracts foreign tourists. Free access is available to all recreational fishers.
Significant recreational fisheries, such as snapper, are being rebuilt to increase their abundance. As recreational fishing has become more popular, concerns about sharing the available yield between the recreational and commercial sectors have grown. Further work is required to develop the rights-based framework so that recreational and other fishery stakeholders can more easily work together towards common objectives. There is also increasing concern over localised depletion of some popular fish and shellfish species in particular areas.
The Ministry of Fisheries has worked closely with stakeholders on a range of fisheries co-management initiatives. Such cooperation has led to innovative and durable fisheries management approaches, often with high levels of support by tangata whenua and stakeholders.
Co-management initiatives include:
- planning processes applicable to all fisheries (such as stock assessment, research planning and cost recovery)
- management initiatives focused on specific fisheries or areas (such as the Adaptive Management Programmes, National Rock Lobster Management Group, Southern Scallop re-seeding and rotational harvest, and the South Island Eel Management Plan)
- introduction of the QMS by the Ministry in collaboration with the NZ Fishing Industry Board, the NZ Fishing Industry Association, and the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen
- issue-related projects such as the Non-QMS Working Group, development of customary fishing regulations with Paepae Taumata 2, and the Cost Recovery Working Group
- establishment of an independent company (FishServe) to provide registry services, and
- close collaboration between the Ministry of Fisheries and FishServe in the development of New Registry systems required to enable the Fisheries Act 1996 to be implemented in October 2001.
There are opportunities for the Ministry of Fisheries to work with stakeholders on further co-management initiatives across a range of issues, fisheries and geographical areas.
Relatively low management costs
The ratio of government expenditure on fisheries management to the annual export value of fisheries was about 5.5% in 2003/04. Unlike many other countries, the fisheries sector in New Zealand receives no direct subsidies from the Government. In addition, the industry makes a significant contribution to the costs of fisheries management – approximately 40% of government expenditure on fisheries management is recovered from the industry. Some stakeholders are concerned that investment in management of fisheries is insufficient to enable the value of fisheries to New Zealanders to be maximised.
Determining the right level of investment – and who should pay for the investment – remains a challenge.
Managing For Outcomes - Fisheries and the Aquatic Environment