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Hodgson Address to Seafood Industry

Pete Hodgson Address to Seafood Industry 2003 conference

[Address to NZ Seafood Industry Council annual conference, Sheraton Auckland. Delivered on behalf of Mr Hodgson by Associate Minister of Fisheries Parekura Horomia]

Today, I want to cover two main issues: maximising value and managing environmental effects. These are part of the purpose of the Fisheries Act and they are key components of sustainable development.

The Ministry of Fisheries’ new five-year strategic plan gives stakeholders a good idea of what the Government is aiming for in fisheries in the medium term and how the Ministry will do its part. The plan sets out an overarching goal for its management efforts:

[To] maximise the value New Zealanders obtain through the sustainable use of fisheries resources and protection of the aquatic environment.

This is a good summary of what sustainable development means in the fisheries sector. The Government's role is to establish laws, policies and systems towards this end. So let me comment on the progress we are making in a number of key areas.

Last year I told you that in policy terms the accelerator was hard down on aquaculture reform. It remains so.

An Aquaculture Bill will soon be introduced to Parliament. I believe it will deliver the benefits that we set out to provide when we embarked on this process: protection and delivery of Treaty settlement obligations, improved environmental performance, better integration of planning processes to enable best-value use of coastal space, and greater certainty for fishers and marine farmers.

I want to say something more about the first and last of these issues.

Earlier this year the Waitangi Tribunal presented the Government with its findings on aquaculture claims. While I agree with the Tribunal that there is no need to stop or indefinitely delay the reforms, I do need to be satisfied that the issues it has identified can be resolved in a way that allows us to move forward.

To provide certainty for marine farmers, tendering will not be the default mechanism for allocating space occupied by existing farms. In effect, the status quo for existing marine farms will continue. Tendering will, however, be the default mechanism for allocating new water space within Aquaculture Management Areas. Officials will be going into this in greater detail with you, I am sure.

I must mention progress in another matter of particular interest to Maori, and that is the allocation of Fisheries Settlement assets.

As you will be aware, the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission recently presented me with its proposal for allocating fisheries assets. I am pleased to have it, and I acknowledge the monumental efforts of the Commission to reach this point after more than a decade.

My role now is to review the proposed model. If there are any concerns I can refer all or part of the proposal back to the Commission for re-consideration. Once we have agreement that the model is consistent with the objectives of the Fisheries Settlement, the necessary legislation will proceed through the normal parliamentary channels.

Allocation of the settlement assets will change the way Maori participate in the commercial fishery. For the first time each iwi will have the opportunity to participate in the fishery and to make its own decisions on its level of involvement. This will significantly affect the shape of the industry in the next few years.

I want to move on now to the Quota Management System.

We are making good progress moving more species into the QMS, but clearly the allocation of valuable fishing rights is difficult. We simply have to get on with it, however. In a few years, once we have cleared the backlog of introductions, we can focus on fine-tuning the QMS and other elements of our fisheries management system to achieve best value.

I am encouraged by the industry’s high level of engagement in developing proposals for future management of tuna and other highly migratory species. It is clear that the problems in these fisheries associated with open access are increasing.

However, while we want to put in place a better management framework, we don’t want to hinder potential development of these fisheries, where appropriate, either within our EEZ or on the high seas. I am pleased to note the Budget included additional funding for the Ministry to support New Zealand’s involvement in international fisheries negotiations — much of it focused on tuna fisheries.

At the recent SeaFIC Policy Council Meeting I indicated possible directions for management of non-QMS fisheries and how we might provide for development of new fisheries. I have not yet made decisions on these issues and the Ministry will be putting effort into this area in the near future. However, I can give you some idea of our current thinking.

At the Policy Council I suggested that we might look to schedule remaining species into the QMS based on catch history in the 1990–92 fishing years (except for tuna, for which the Act provides for different years to be set). We would want to complete this process sooner than later.

After the backlog of species is introduced, we would then be in a position to tender ITQ when introducing a new species into the QMS. Those who purchase shares in the stock would then be able to determine how much they were willing to invest in developing the fishery.

In effect, we would be tendering a development right. Developing new fisheries under special permits and fisheries permits can cause many problems, most of which would be resolved by tendering development rights.

However there are some difficult outstanding issues. A classic example is the expiry of the inevitable bycatch exemption, scheduled for October 2004. These issues will have to be resolved before then.

Now, Fisheries Plans. These were provided for under the Fisheries Act in 1999, to give rights-holders an opportunity for greater involvement in fisheries management. Yet in 2003, although draft fisheries plans have been submitted to the Ministry for comment, none have reached the stage of being presented for my approval. Why is this?

There are a number of possible reasons.

There continues to be uncertainty about elements of the fisheries management framework.

One of the uncertainties concerns future decisions on allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors. The Ministry and I continue to work with the recreational sector to develop reform options that recognise and define recreational rights, and improve mechanisms for their integration with the QMS. Until we get better integration of rights and interests, fisheries plans are likely to focus on areas affecting only one stakeholder group.

Another area of uncertainty relates to management of the environmental effects of fishing and the constraints this will impose. I will talk more about what we are doing in this area shortly.

There may be a lack of financial incentive to develop fisheries plans. Under current arrangements, it is often cheaper for stakeholders to leave the Ministry to manage fisheries, since that part of the Ministry’s work is not subject to cost recovery. If this is contributing to the lack of progress on fisheries plans then we may need to do some work to ensure that the cost-recovery and fisheries management systems are interacting in the right way.

There is a lack of clarity about the respective roles of the government and stakeholders in a fishery managed under a fisheries plan. But a number of initiatives should provide more clarity.

· The final version of the fisheries plan guidelines is scheduled to be released later this year.

· The environmental standards and fish stock standards that the Ministry has started to develop will help clarify the boundaries within which stakeholders can work.

· The development of a fisheries plan for the North Island eel fishery in the Ngati Kahungunu rohe includes a feasibility study to determine whether the proposed stakeholder organisation will be able to develop and afford the capacity to implement the plan. The specifications developed through this process will help guide other fisheries plan proponents.

I also note the industry’s investment in new fisheries management capacity through SeaFIC. And I'm pleased there was extra funding in the Budget to boost the ministry’s fisheries management resources.

I want to turn now to the area of managing the environmental effects of fishing.

There are some undeveloped fisheries and the opportunity to get fisheries into the QMS should allow these to be unlocked. However, there are ecological limits to development.

The industry should not hang its hopes on expectations of large increases in product volume from wild harvest fisheries within the EEZ — although there may be considerable potential for expansion in aquaculture and enhancement. Use and development of our fisheries resources must occur in a way that ensures the effects on the aquatic environment are acceptable.

Some good progress is being made:
· I acknowledge and welcome the initiative by industry to develop a charter based on the principles of sustainable development. It is encouraging to hear that an increasing number of seafood companies and vessel operators are signing the charter.
· I commend the efforts undertaken in the hoki fishery to retain its Marine Stewardship Council certification. This shows the positive marketing results of managing fisheries in a way that addresses environmental issues. The website that supports this certification displays a useful level of transparency.
· I particularly want to comment on Southern Seabird Solutions, a joint initiative between industry, environmental organisations, and government. This is a welcome, cooperative effort to develop and promote seabird-friendly fishing practices.

A lot more still needs to be done to manage environmental effects. New Zealand is not alone in this. As new information on the extent of fishing impacts becomes available, fisheries management agencies around the world are playing catch-up.

New Zealanders’ expectations are changing too. For example, they are no longer satisfied with knowing that icon species are not threatened with extinction as a result of fishing. Increasingly they want to know that all reasonable steps are being taken to minimise bycatch of those species.

In response to this new information and changing expectations, the Government is developing several strategies and frameworks to improve management of the environmental effects of fishing. I will comment briefly on some of them.

Last month, the Ministry released for consultation the Draft Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing. This proposes some significant changes in our approach to managing environmental effects including:
· improved assessment and reporting on the status of species and habitats affected by fishing
· a proactive approach to managing and protecting species and habitats
· a requirement for environmental risk assessments to be undertaken for fisheries, and
· use of environmental standards to establish the limits within which fisheries must operate.

The Ministry has started preliminary work on developing environmental standards and officials will be looking to work with stakeholders in this process. These standards will take some time to develop and I recognise there may be some uncertainty in the short term. However, in the longer term these standards will give increased certainty for all stakeholders, along with a marketing edge for an increasingly discerning global market.

The Environmental Strategy will be linked to and supported by a number of other, more specific, strategies such as the Marine Protected Area Strategy, the Seamount Strategy, and the National Plan of Action for Seabirds.

Protection of our marine biodiversity is an important component of the Biodiversity Strategy, and one that this Government has made a strong commitment to. As part of that commitment, a Marine Protected Areas Strategy is being developed. The aim is to create a network of areas that protect a representative range of marine biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Strategy contains a target of protecting 10 percent of New Zealand’s marine environment by 2010 in this network. This target is sometimes misquoted. It does not relate solely to marine reserves. The Marine Protected Areas network will comprise areas protected by a range of management measures including marine reserves, fisheries regulations, and areas protected under the Resource Management Act.

Management measures that do not provide complete protection, such as fisheries method restrictions and mätaitai, will form part of the network if they provide sufficient protection. Ultimately, the extent of protection will be determined by considering the level of coverage necessary to protect a fully representative network of marine biodiversity.

The draft Marine Protected Areas Strategy will be released for consultation within the next two or three months. I encourage you all to have your say.

The National Plan of Action for Seabirds has taken some time to progress — much longer than I wanted. The revised draft is due to be released in June for consultation and to be in place by October 2003. Depending on the measures to be implemented under the plan, some may be in place for the 2003/04 fishing year and others for the 2004/05 fishing year.

The seabird plan proposes a package of measures including species catch limits, regulatory controls, and codes of practice. It also outlines potential options for use of an economic instrument and additional sanctions against individual vessels. The aim is to ensure a reduction in seabird by-catch. Industry will have the opportunity to use a range of measures to achieve that goal.

And we should not forget Marine Biosecurity. Guarding against invasive species is an important part of protecting the health of the marine environment. The New Zealand Biosecurity Strategy is due for release in June. I thank SeaFIC for its constructive contribution to its development.

In closing, let me put in a brief plug for a conference to be held in New Zealand later this year, and give you a quick update on the Oceans Policy.

In December, the Governments of New Zealand and Australia will co-host an important international conference on the governance and management of deepwater fisheries. It is already attracting world-wide interest and a number of prominent international speakers. It is concerned with deepwater fisheries both within national EEZs and on the high seas. I encourage those of you with an interest in deepwater fisheries to be there.

Finally, the Oceans Policy. This is about much more than fisheries, of course, but it is of keen relevance to the seafood industry.

We are making good progress with Stage 2 of the process. The Oceans Policy Secretariat is working hard to produce a public discussion document containing a draft Oceans Policy, to be released for public consultation by October.

As a sneak preview, the Oceans Policy will set out practical steps to integrate our oceans management system better. This means putting in place common objectives and principles to guide all decision makers, some ideas for improving national direction on environmental management and dealing with the competing uses and values in the marine environment, and a work programme to improve the day-to-day management of all of the activities in our oceans.

I strongly encourage you to stay closely involved in the Oceans Policy process. Through it your industry can play an important part in shaping the future direction of marine management in New Zealand.

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