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Fisheries: Some Frequently Asked Questions


Fisheries: Some Frequently Asked Questions

How important is fishing to New Zealand?

The seafood industry is New Zealand's fifth largest export earner. In 2004 more than 335,000 tonnes of seafood were sold overseas, earning New Zealand $1.3billion. The seafood sector employs around 26,000 people – 10,000 directly – and makes up an important contribution to regional economic development. New Zealand also remains one of the few places in the world where recreational fishers can catch fish from fisheries they access for free, which are unpolluted and within a short distance of our largest cities.

Are our fisheries in good shape?

By world standards, New Zealand's fisheries are in great shape. This is due in large part to the Quota Management System (QMS) – our internationally regarded system for the sustainable management of fish stocks. New Zealand has created an environment that largely removes incentives for fishers to race each other to catch fish, which has the potential for both over investment in fishing fleets and over fishing.

How comprehensive is the QMS?

New Zealand's quota management system, which began in the 1980s, has matured from managing only a limited number of single stocks to managing the majority of commercially fished species under an integrated system. Over the past three years 50 new species, ranging from shellfish to tuna, have been introduced into the QMS.

Does the government adequately fund its fisheries work?

The government has increased the capability of the Ministry of Fisheries across the breadth of its functions, but particularly in fisheries enforcement. Vote fisheries for 2005/06 totalled $85.7 million, an increase of 8.3 percent on 2004/05. Since 1999 Vote Fisheries has increased by $29.3 million – a 50 percent increase.

Has the government increased the number of fisheries staff?

Fisheries compliance staff rose from 113 in 1999 to 162 positions currently, a 43 percent increase. Recently the Ministry of Fisheries announced a significant boost in the number of Fisheries compliance officers for 2005/06. In a major reorganisation of its compliance unit, the Ministry signalled an increase in compliance staff from the current 162 to 180, or almost 15 per cent.

What about fisheries enforcement?

Fisheries enforcement, a core activity, has received a significant boost. Poachers and black-market fishing operations are the target of an $11.6 million crackdown over the next four years. This includes $2.9 million of operational funding this year to create a Special Tactics Team for covert operations. Ministry of Fisheries prosecutions have a high rate of success. The most recent statistics show the success rate for prosecutions is around 90 percent.

Has the government expanded the network of Fisheries offices?

Yes, since 01 July 1999, the Ministry of Fisheries has opened six new regional offices in Whitianga, Opotiki, Hamilton, Masterton, Petone and Blenheim. The Ministry now has an extensive network of regional offices across New Zealand.

Where does the Ministry of Fisheries now have regional offices?

In the North Island, additional to those just mentioned, there are offices in Kaitaia, Whangarei, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Gisborne, New Plymouth and Wellington. In the South Island there are additional offices in Nelson, Christchurch, Chatham Islands, Dunedin and Invercargill.

How is the government protecting marine deep sea biodiversity?

New Zealand has taken a number of initiatives to address the impact of fishing on deep sea biodiversity within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). These include research into deep sea biodiversity and effects of fishing on seamounts. In 2001 New Zealand restricted fishing in 19 seamount areas within our EEZ. The areas cover 100,000 square kilometres, or an area equal to about half the area of the North Island.

Is New Zealand a leader internationally on fishing issues?

Yes, New Zealand works hard with other like-minded countries to strengthen high seas governance particularly in respect to biodiversity protection. The high seas around New Zealand and Australia need a strong governance framework with enforceable controls. New Zealand, Australia and Chile have agreed to put in place a process to establish a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMO).

Have we addressed the issue of sea bird and marine mammal bycatch?

Last year we implemented a National Plan of Action to save seabirds. The plan combines voluntary and regulatory measures. The plan was prepared by MFish and DoC with considerable input from the fishing industry and conservation stakeholders. Regulations that require the mandatory the use of bird scaring devices on fishing boats are about to be introduced. We are also working with industry to reduce sea lion bycatch. The Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation are jointly developing a Threat Management Plan to manage the threats to New Zealand's endangered Maui’s and Hector’s dolphin. We have made some good progress addressing these problems, but more remains to be done.

What about the other environmental impacts of fishing?

The government has announced a new policy that aims to improve the environmental performance of New Zealand fisheries. Called the Strategy for Managing the Environmental Effects of Fishing it seeks to manage fishing's "footprint" on non-target species, on marine habitats, and on the wider ecosystems in our oceans. The new strategy promotes a co-ordinated and purposeful way of working out environmental limits, regularly reviewing them, and improving them if necessary.

How significant is illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing?

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing has widespread environmental, social and economic consequences. It adversely affects target species, such as Patagonian Toothfish, as well as the wider ecosystem. It also disadvantages those who fish legitimately.

What is New Zealand doing to combat IUU fishing?

In 2004 the Minister of Fisheries announced a National Plan of Action to combat illegal fishing both domestically and on the high seas. New Zealand’s plan to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing closely follows the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) International Plan of Action. It contains general measures targeted at all states, as well as measures targeted specifically at addressing issues relating to the trade in illegally caught seafood products.

Is there a sustainable future for the aquaculture industry?

The government successfully reformed the aquaculture industry, through the Aquaculture Reform Act. This allowed the lifting of a moratorium on new marine farm applications and secured a sustainable future for New Zealand's aquaculture industry. The Act provided the public and industry certainty as to where aquaculture can and cannot take place, with decisions being based on good ecological data, and regard to the effect on fishing and public use considerations.

Did the Aquaculture Reform Act settle Maori claims to aquaculture?

Yes, the Act provided iwi with, where possible, an allocation of an area equivalent to 20 percent of the total marine farming space allocated since 1992, and 20 percent of any new marine farming space. This was in line with the 1992 Fisheries Settlement – aquaculture being the unfinished business of the 1992 Settlement.

Have changes been made to customary fishing regulations?

The Ministry of Fisheries has reviewed customary fishing around regulation 27. The aim of the review was to improve customary fisheries management; improve information between MFish and tangata whenua to ensure reg 27 processes support sustainable management; and reduce the potential for deliberate abuse. As a result of the review, new offences and tough new penalties are being introduced for those who abuse this regulation. Specific offences are being created for authorisations being issued by a person not representing a recognised entity; authorisations being issued outside an authorising agent's authority; retrospective authorisations; and consistent and material errors on authorisations.

What other regulations are being reviewed?

The Ministry of Fisheries is reviewing a series of amateur fishing regulations after the Minister of Fisheries invited the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council to identify priority areas for recreational fishers. The regulations being reviewed are those affecting:

• the primary taker rule – essentially who is entitled to a daily bag limit of a certain species, for example, perceived inequities in different limits for those who dive and those who dredge for scallops

• aspects of taking and possessing some species – for example, whether measurement is required on the sea floor; or the rules around possession of scuba equipment aboard vessels

• the amateur daily bag limits for Coromandel scallops

• the implications of various catching methods such as bobs, pull pots and the use of scoop nets.

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