Government adopts oceans vision

Oceans and Fisheries

The Labour Government is strengthening its focus on the health of New Zealand’s oceans, marine life and fisheries to address threats to them from land and sea. 

The Government has adopted a vision for the oceans: 

Ensuring the long-term health and resilience of ocean and coastal ecosystems, including the role of fisheries. 

David Parker told the annual Forest and Bird conference today that this vision and associated objectives and principles will guide all work in his Oceans and Fisheries portfolio. 

“The Prime Minister created this portfolio in 2020 to focus on oceans ecosystems as a whole. In response, we have begun a long-term and co-ordinated approach to address ocean sustainability issues through a raft of programmes and initiatives. 

“The stakes are high. Oceans and coasts are central to New Zealanders’ wellbeing and prosperity. Most of us live near the coast, and the sea is an important part of our national identity. It has immense cultural value and has provided kaimoana and enjoyment for as long as people have lived here. 

“The challenges facing the oceans are complex and interconnected, and we need to take a comprehensive approach to dealing with them,” David Parker said.  

“We need to respond to increasing and cumulative pressures on the marine environment and improve environmental performance, including by addressing depletion of marine life and seabed habitat impacts. 

“To strengthen coordination across government agencies, I have established an Oceans Secretariat comprising officials from the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, the Ministry for the Environment and other agencies as appropriate.  

“This will ensure the right expertise is around the table to provide advice to Ministers on critical oceans issues, and to improve the current fragmented nature of New Zealand’s marine management system. 

“The oceans vision includes the role of fisheries. The jobs the industry provides are important to many communities and the high quality New Zealand products sent around the world earn valuable export returns for our country.  

“Significant reform of the fisheries system is required to deliver the oceans vision. A key part of this reform is ensuring commercial fishing is more sustainable, productive, and inclusive. 

“Changes have already begun, delivering on our election promises. 

“This month I have announced a wider rollout of cameras on commercial fishing vessels, reforms to fishing rules to place the incentives in the right place, and a raft of new protections and improvements to the management of the Hauraki Gulf. 

“Other important work continues, such as the development of open ocean aquaculture. 

“I will be working closely with the Minister of Conservation to assess what future longer-term work is necessary to realise our oceans vision, including marine protection. 

“While there are a range of challenges facing our oceans, I am confident we are working from a strong foundation. Together, we can make a genuine and lasting difference for current and future generations,” David Parker said. 

Background information 

Vision, objectives and principles for the Oceans and Fisheries portfolio: 


Ensuring the long-term health and resilience of ocean and coastal ecosystems, including the role of fisheries. 


  • Promote an ecosystem-based approach to research, monitoring and management
  • Establish a spatial planning framework that optimises the protection and use of marine space and resources
  • Support the development of a high-value marine economy that provides equitable wellbeing benefits


  • Precautionary approach and adaptive management
  • Equitable allocation of costs and benefits
  • Give effect to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi, including through fisheries and aquaculture settlements and other legislation
  • Decision-making based on sound science and traditional knowledge
  • Consistency with international commitments
  • Transparent, inclusive and effective public participation processes. 

Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s report

 The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s report The Future of Commercial Fishing in Aotearoa New Zealand, released in March 2021, envisaged an ambitious, innovative future for the commercial fishing sector, operating with minimal environmental impacts. The report recommended taking immediate, evidence-based action.  

While the full Government response to the report is being prepared, work is underway on some of the report’s recommendations, including innovation in fishing, protecting habitats of particular significance, and increasing the availability of fisheries information.