A bill to address concerns raised by the High Court has been introduced into Parliament, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.
This amendment is needed so that new catch limits can be set before the start of a new fishing year on 1 October.
Jim Anderton said a High Court ruling earlier this year made a law change inevitable.
The court ruled that before a Total Allowable Catch allocation can be made, estimates of the current stock level of the fishery must be received as well as its target stock level.
The target stock level is one that can produce the maximum sustainable yield of that fishery. The TAC is the main instrument used in setting out how much fish can be taken sustainably from the sea under our Quota Management System.
Jim Anderton said that the information needed to produce the estimates was not available for virtually any of our fisheries, and it would be difficult and expensive to get.
“Catch limits should be set using the best information available, without requiring a level of research that involves unreasonable cost, effort or time.”
He said the proposed amendment were restricted to section 13, so that it can be used to set catch limits using the standard practices followed since the Fisheries Act was passed in 1996.
“It will not change the general approach of the Fisheries Act.
“It will not alter the balance between the objectives of sustainability and utilisation, nor will it alter the balance of interests between stakeholder groups.”
Jim Anderton said the new fishing season started on October 1.
“It is urgent to amend the Fisheries Act so that I can make decisions on new catch limits before the 1st of October. I will, therefore, be requesting the Primary Production Select Committee to report the Bill back to the House by 25 August, so that the Bill can be enacted by mid-September.”
He said that while the select committee would have a shortened consideration period, it is important to note that this Bill does not seek to alter the approach taken to setting catch limits in New Zealand.
“It merely seeks to make the current practice lawful.”