Lots of people go fishing, and for lots of different reasons. If everybody caught as many fish as they wanted, whenever they wanted, there would soon be no fish left in the sea. Our fisheries must be managed carefully to look after everybody’s needs – and that includes the needs of the fish!
Two things are important for managing a fishery well:
- Research into the needs of the fish and the fishers
- Rules and a way of making people stick to those rules.
The Quota Management System
The Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced in 1986. Each year, scientists work with the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) and fishers to figure out how many fish can be taken from each of the major fisheries around the country. They research things like the size of the fish, the number of fish in each fishery, and the needs of the different groups who want to fish.
The Minister of Fisheries uses this information to set the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for each fish stock. This is the total amount (in tonnes) of fish that can be caught by fishers each year, whether they are recreational, customary, or commercial fishers. The Minister also specifies a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC), which sets out how much of the TAC for each fishery can be caught by commercial fishers.
The TACC for each fishery is split into 100 million quota shares. A number of these shares are given to each of the companies that have permits to fish in that fishery.
These quota shares:
- can only be owned by New Zealanders or New Zealand companies
- tell fishing companies what percentage of the TACC they can fish for
- determine what the companies’ Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) will be.
If a fisher catches fewer fish than their ACE allows them, they can sell their extra ACE. If a fisher catches more fish than their ACE allows, they can buy more, if there is any available. If they don’t buy more ACE, they must pay a Deemed Value for every tonne of fish that they catch over their ACE. A Deemed Value is like a fine.
Commercial fishers must report their catches to MFish every month.
Non-commercial fishers don’t have set quota shares. There are hundreds of thousands of recreational and customary fishers in New Zealand, so it would be too hard to give them each their own share of the quota! Instead, MFish uses research to estimate how many fish non-commercial fishers are likely to catch. The Minister uses this information to decide how many fish to allow for non-commercial fishers in the TAC. There are lots of rules to try to make sure that non-commercial fishers don’t catch more than expected.
For recreational fishers, there are rules for the minimum size of fish that you can catch and for the maximum number of fish that you can catch in each fishing trip.
There are also customary regulations that set out how tangata whenua can manage non-commercial fishing in their area.
Fishing in international waters
Once you go outside New Zealand waters, you are in the high seas. These waters are not governed by just one country. Ships fishing on the high seas must fly the flag of a country they are registered to, and they must stick to the fishing rules for that country. For some high-seas fisheries, different countries have got together to set up Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). The countries in a RFMO work together to sort out quotas and other management controls for those fisheries.
Case study: Managing a rock lobster fishery
The red rock lobster (also known as crayfish, spiny lobster or koura) is one of New Zealand’s best-known species.
Red rock lobsters are valued as taonga by tangata whenua, they are highly sought after by recreational fishers, and they are a commercially valuable species.
The Gisborne red rock lobster fishery, CRA 3, runs from the North Island’s East Cape, south to the Wairoa River.
Because it is such a highly valued fishery, everyone wants to make sure the red rock lobster fishery lasts into the future, so stakeholders in the fishery are working together to help manage it.
Representatives from the different stakeholder groups meet regularly and work together to develop a management plan for the fishery. The plan could include:
- methods for learning more about how many lobsters are caught by customary and recreational fishers and how they are caught
- closing the fishery for a set period so that the lobsters have time to breed and increase their stock
- improving the public’s knowledge of the rules for that fishery.