Sustainability ensures bright future for fisheries

Wednesday 14 May 2008, 3:05PM
By Hon Jim Anderton

Sustainability and a robust Quota Management System is the only strategy to ensure a prosperous future for the fishing industry, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.

He told the Seafood Industry Council annual conference in Wellington that he was well aware the industry was facing a number of heavy burdens, among them, the high exchange rate and high fuel costs.

“The way we will get through them is by making our industry more high-value, more sophisticated and more productive. Our sustainably-managed fishery will be a major part of our industry’s strength. It will be a major competitive advantage as other countries fish out their resources.”

Jim Anderton said the Quota Management System (QMS) would continue to be the cornerstone of our sustainable management.

“I’m pleased that enhancing the QMS is a theme of this conference. The QMS depends crucially on defining and protecting property rights. I know there have been critics in this industry who have felt their property rights have been threatened. My view is that actions to protect fish stocks, in the long-term, protect your property rights. Put simply if there are too few fish to catch, property rights in fisheries will have no value.”

However, he said, it was not viable or sensible to have every minister of fisheries taken to court repeatedly. Nor was it viable or sensible to have on-going conflict between the way the property right is managed and the public’s expectations about the sustainability of the resource.

“I believe that a new consensus will need to be formed around the way we protect property rights and the sustainability of the resource.

“I am sure you will hear all sorts of claims in coming months. It’s an election year. Everyone will have their careful rhetoric crafted to please you. But sooner or later every government is going to have to grapple with the sustainability issue. Every government is going to have to manage fish stocks in the QMS to ensure they are still there in fifty years from now.”

Jim Anderton said he was looking for consensus to resolve these problems and had been talking with the Seafood Industry Council and industry leaders about this.

“My objective is to restore the regime to where we were before the High Court judgement. No attempt will be made to change the basis upon which decisions have been made for the past decade.

“The current provisions would be left as they are and new sections added that enable decisions to continue to be taken for low information stocks. Any new provisions would pursue the same balance of objectives, using the Maximum Sustainable Yield target where this is possible.”

Jim Anderton said the Government, Ministry, and fishing industry need to work together to develop ways to reliably demonstrate whether catches are sustainable.

“As part of this process, we are seeking an independent evaluation of New Zealand’s fisheries management framework to provide recognition of our sustainable management practices. The assessment will also provide valuable information in support of the environmental certification of individual fisheries.”

A $1 million a year contestable fund is to be set up for industry to seek part funding for the costs of independent environmental certification or assessment.

“When I look into the distant horizon, I believe there will be two types of fish market: the market for fish that is environmentally certified through a robust process - and fish from stocks that are being pillaged. New Zealand can only be on one side of that line.”