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Fisheries Management System Achieves Results

16th August 2004
By The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Ltd

Sustainable Fisheries Management System Achieves Results

Government and industry co-operation to build a sustainable fisheries management programme through quota systems and regulatory controls is proving to be a trailblazer in international best practice.

"New Zealand has a world-leading fisheries management system that sustains our fisheries and a billion-dollar industry," says SeaFIC CEO Owen Symmans.

"When the Quota Management System was introduced in the mid 1980s many fishing nations throught it was experimental, but now it is recognised internationally as a highly successful fisheries management regime," he says.

"A key reason for the success is that the system involves shared responsibility between the industry and government to ensure sustainability of the ocean environment and our fisheries into the future as well as providing a level of surety for the multi billion dollar investment that underpins this vital export industry and local employer.".

The effective implementation of the Quota Management System (QMS) has resulted in recovery of formerly overfished snapper, scallop and rock lobster stocks.

"Recreational and commercial fishers can catch their limits of these sought-after species, and scientists predict that under the current management regime, snapper populations will continue to increase over the next decade." Mr Symmans says the industry will continue to work with Government to ensure continued improvement in sustainable management of fisheries.

He said the industry recognised the benefits of a sensible regulatory framework to manage quotas and environmental impacts, but there was concern that there was a move to use the creation of marine reserves as a fisheries management tool.

"Marine reserves are really a fisheries management tool of last resort and at least in New Zealand we have a very effective range of regulatory protections in place and an industry that is committed to respecting and implementing best sustainable practice."

New Zealand's seafood industry has growth from around $200 million in the 1970s to now contribute over $1.2 billion to the national economy as the country's fourth largest export industry behind dairy, meat and forestry products.

The industry generates jobs for 26,000 full-time equivalent people and is a major contributor to the economic wellbeing of much of coastal regional New Zealand.


New Zealand introduced the Quota Management System (QMS) in 1986, with the aim of conserving major fish stocks and making the fishing industry more efficient. Before this, our fisheries were without a quality, sustainable model. There were too many boats chasing too few fish and New Zealand was in danger of being over-fished, which had serious implications for the livelihood of many commercial fishers.

Sustainability of Fish stocks The QMS involves industry and government agencies continually working together to assess the abundance of all quota-managed species. From these results, the Minister of Fisheries sets a yearly Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for key species.

Each year, fisheries scientists work with industry and Government to assess the population size of all major commercial fish species in our major fishing grounds.

A number of factors other than commercial fishing can affect the sustainability of various fisheries. Climatic variability, sedimentation, loss of habitat, and recreational and illegal fishing can make sustainable management of some fisheries more difficult.

Rebuilding Fish Stocks New Zealand's QMS has, with industry research and management support, resulted in the protection and/or rebuilding of a number of fisheries since the system was introduced in 1986.

Rock Lobster stocks have been rebuilt in six of the nine management areas.

The remaining areas have management plans in place to increase stock abundance within reasonable timeframes. The Rock Lobster industry has also contributed detailed logbook data to the stock assessment process, and has funded and is operating a tagging programme in several areas in order to improve understanding of Rock Lobster biology and stock dynamics.

In the southern Scallop fishery, catches have returned to levels seen before the stock crashed in the late 1970s, and recreational fishers have also benefited from the increased number of scallops available.

Snapper stocks were heavily exploited during the 1970s and through until the introduction of the QMS in 1986. Since then, management regimes have been put in place that allow stocks to rebuild.

The Hoki Fishery Management Company is one of several stakeholder groups that contribute extra research to the Ministry of Fisheries.

Cuts to the Hoki TAC since 2001 have been endorsed by the industry and have been needed to prevent over-fishing. Since the mid-1990's there have been fewer young fish in the fishery and scientists believe this may be due to environmental (climatic) factors.

BACKGROUND - Seafood Industry Policy on Marine Reserves

The health and wellbeing of fisheries depends upon good management of all marine resources. The seafood industry therefore supports the need for protection of marine biodiversity. However, this can be achieved through many different mechanisms.

Protecting marine biodiversity Industry demands the best tools be used for the job. It considers marine reserves just one of the many regulatory and voluntary tools available to protect marine biodiversity; however they are not always the most appropriate.

We first need to be clear about what we are trying to achieve - what are we trying to protect and what threats do we need to control? Only then can we ask whether it is appropriate to establish a marine reserve.

For example, if the biodiversity of a unique benthic community was shown to be at risk from the effects of bottom trawling, then the Fisheries Act would be an appropriate management mechanism. If the biodiversity of a harbour was at risk from urban and agricultural runoff, then the Resource Management Act would be the appropriate mechanism. If a unique marine ecosystem was at risk from a range of threats, then a marine reserve may be an appropriate mechanism.

The industry believes the Marine Reserves Act should provide 'high level' protection of marine biodiversity - i.e. marine reserves should be the preferred mechanism only where full protection from all sources of controllable risk is required and protection cannot be provided by other, more targeted mechanisms. It is therefore appropriate that all marine reserves should be strictly 'no take'.

Economic and social costs are inevitable from a marine reserve because it completely closes off sustainable extractive use by commercial, customary and recreational fishing interests. We need to understand the benefits of protecting biodiversity in a particular area in relation to the costs - and be satisfied that a marine reserve is the best way to achieve those benefits.

Marine reserves are NOT fisheries management tools Arguments about the beneficial effects of marine reserves on fisheries are imported from overseas, where many fisheries are essentially unmanaged and fishing practices are often unsustainable. These arguments do not apply in New Zealand where fisheries are managed sustainably under the Quota Management System. New Zealand's fisheries management system requires catch limits to be set to ensure that each fish stock remains at or above the level at which the stock can replenish itself.

Introducing extensive closed areas into a system which is already sustainably managed will simply displace effort into other areas and result in sustainability risks and increased conflicts between users.


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