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Fisheries Decision Blindsides Industry

The Chief Executive of the organisation representing the $330 million New Zealand rock lobster industry has expressed surprise about a sudden decision to remove key elements of amendments to the Fisheries Act.

Mark Edwards from the NZ Rock Lobster Industry Council says that a last minute removal of provisions that would enable the use of decision rules is a loss to fisheries management in New Zealand.

The Departmental Report prepared by the Ministry for Primary Industries notes that decision rules are best practice in most well developed fisheries management regimes including North America, Australia, Canada and South Africa.

Decisions rules are also endorsed by the FAO as a mechanism to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries and used by a number of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

The Ministry for Primary Industries also points out that decision rules incentivise a collaborative approach and a longer term perspective on sustainability decisions, rather than one-off annual decisions.

“Decision rules have been used to very good effect for New Zealand’s rock lobster fisheries as a key part of rebuilding some stocks over the last 20 years” says Edwards.

"They support the ability to review many more stocks, addressing shortcomings in the capacity of the sustainability review process, and they provide certainty about how science will be used to inform decision making on catch limits”.

Edwards says that the removal of the provisions at such a late stage is very difficult to understand, after the considerable scrutiny and discussion that has occurred through the Bill process, including a unanimous decision by the Select Committee members to support the use of decision rules.

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It is especially difficult to comprehend given that issues raised were addressed or not evident. The Amendment Bill required comprehensive consultation with all interests in the process to approve a decision rule. Decision rules must be consistent with all the sustainability provisions and environmental safeguards in the Act, including the requirement to be cautious when information is uncertain. There is no change to the Minister’s discretion to make decisions about allocation between the sectors.

“The Select Committee process made a number of improvements to the provisions for decision rules and it is disappointing, and a substantial opportunity cost, that the work will not be applied to improve the performance of New Zealand’s fisheries management”, Edwards says..

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