THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FISHERIES MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

  • Doug Kidd
Fisheries and Aquaculture

Thank you for the opportunity to address this symposium concerning the interrelationship between fisheries management and international trade. For those of you who have come from overseas, welcome to New Zealand, I hope you have an enjoyable and productive stay here in Wellington.

I commend the PECC Fisheries Taskforce for undertaking this initiative in an area that quite frankly has received little international attention to date.

New Zealand is a country which is heavily reliant on trade, somewhere in the order of ninety percent (90%) of New Zealands seafood products are exported. We are also a country that has over the last decade moved to implement a fisheries management regime which I believe to be one of the best in the world. It is, therefore, of concern to both the industry and Government that until today little international recognition has been made of the links between poor fisheries management practice and the effects on trade.

You will all be aware of the headlines stating that world fisheries are in a state of crisis. Unfortunately, this is very close to the truth. In 1993 the FAO estimated that more than 69 per cent of the worlds marine stocks, for which data are available, were either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or very slowly recovering from over-fishing.

As part of the process of addressing the critical state of the worlds fisheries, there is an urgent need to confront the gross levels of subsidisation of the worlds fishing fleets. It has been estimated that the world fishing fleets operate at a deficit of US$22 billion of revenue (before debt servicing), a significant proportion of which must come from subsidies. If the cost of capital is included, the figure moves to US$54 billion. That is an international scandal - worse it is a crime against the children and grandchildren of the planet. But, of course, they do not vote today, whereas fishers and their dependent communities do. The FAO has estimated that some 30-40% of current fishing capacity needs to be retired before the seafood sector is in equilibrium internationally. I expect Dr Garcias presentation will highlight these facts in far greater detail than I am able to do in this short time.

While these figures that I have cited are extremely concerning from a resource sustainability perspective they are equally concerning in terms of the effects that such unsustainable resource use must be having on the international trade of fisheries products.

It is now well known that a strong interrelationship exists between domestic agricultural policies, particularly those involving subsidies, and trade in agricultural products. The aforementioned domestic policies can readily lead to depressed prices and numerous distortions in international agricultural trade. I understand that later today you will be having a session on the lessons that may be learned from the agricultural sector, drawing on the large body of work in this area in relation to agriculture.

The argument that has been put to me by the New Zealand fishing industry is that a similar relationship to that which exists in the agricultural sector applies in fisheries. The New Zealand Fishing Industry Board has commissioned and completed a study which has produced strong prima facie evidence in support of this argument. If, as the New Zealand industry report suggests, there is a strong interrelationship between fisheries resource use policy and fisheries trade there are significant implications in terms of both trade and resource use policy making. I do not only have their argument, I have the benefit of the evidence of my own eyes from the limited amount of overseas travel I have been able to do. It is only two weeks since I was in two major overseas markets. Much of what I saw and learnt appalled me. In more depressing moments, I struggled with the thought that there is no future from the oceans for our children, let alone our grandchildlren. While coastal states must answer principally to their own people for the demise of their own fisheries, I am increasingly persuaded towards the view that the high seas will be a desert in a decade or two unless drastic action is taken and soon.

One needs to look no further than the high seas beyond New Zealands Exclusive Economic Zone - arguably the fourth and certainly the fifth largest in the world. However, with a total catch of typically 500,000 tonnes, we are but a minor force in international seafood markets. Most of our species are managed within our Quota Management System - an output control system whereby the total catch is determined on the basis of biological sustainability and the allowed catch is harvested by those holding transferable access rights. Those species presently outside the system will by virtue of the Fisheries Act 1996 all be brought within over the next three to five years. That comprehensively rewritten Fisheries Law also raises the standards for determining sustai nability of catches to the point where, I venture to suggest, we have imposed upon ourselves perhaps the highest standards in the world. What is more, those standards will be legally enforceable in the Courts, as well as accountable in Parliament and before the public, who are rightly very demanding in these matters.

But New Zealand fishers are no different from their peers elsewhere when they cross the 200 mile line and venture forth onto the high seas. Their behaviour within our zone is, by and large admirable, the consequences of breach being financially devastating. That good behaviour is substantially assured by the putting in place of Big Brother in the form of the vessel monitoring system (a satellite link transponder system by means of which we know where they all are by day and night and what they are doing).

But roughly 100 miles beyond our zone is the Louisville Ridge along which rich orange roughy grounds were discovered a few years ago. Biologically we cannot claim these are straddling stocks. So we have no jurisdiction. The Law of the Sea Convention gives no teeth to us as the nearest coastal state, or to any other. So we have seen vessels from several nations, as well as Australians and New Zealanders, rape and pillage these stocks. Our fishers say they cannot afford to let the chance go by and let others carry it all away. That it understandable, even though it is wrong in principle, but principle has nothing to do with the high seas yet. What is the result so far? Naturally there is no reliable data on captures but my private gleanings at home and abroad indicate that catches are down to a third of those only three years ago and the fishery is expected to be abandoned within a couple of years. That is not the only example. Both Australia and New Zealand have orange roughy stocks within their respective zones, as it were facing each other. Ours, at least, is under effective sustainable management. Not surprisingly, the species has been found along the undersea ridge which more or less connects our zones. I have been trying to get my counterparts in Australia to agree to impose joint controls with New Zealand over our respective fleets when operating in the mid-Tasman Sea. I now await a response from the third Minister since I raised the matter seriously. Our industry also opposes controls. The Australian industry wants to build up catch history to catch up with that of our industry, who were there first. The controls I have proposed certainly go well beyond the law of the sea but are a response to the impotence of the Convention in relation to true high seas stocks. I believe we could impose an effective joint regime which neither of us could do unilaterally.

What is the outlook for the mid-Tasman stocks? It is inevitable that it will soon be the case of another collapsed commercial fishery.

Across the bottom of the world these examples seem about to be repeated on the South Atlantic ridges beyond the Namibian Exclusive Economic Zone. That young government is managing very responsibly the new orange roughy resources discovered with the assistance of New Zealand participants, but like us has no control beyond its zone.

I turn now to but the latest outrage to the south of the planet. I refer to Patagonian Toothfish, also known as Chilean Sea Bass - a magnificent large white fish which amongst other things has pushed our orange roughy off the menus of many of the eastern seaboard restaurants in the USA. I put it to you that much of what is in international trade is quite simply stolen. We have seen the Antarctic Cod fishery reduced to commercial collapse in little more than five years of fishing, ending a few years ago, for which the late unlamented Soviet Union has to take most of the credit. Patagonian Toothfish will go the same way in not many more years, thanks to the efforts of displaced fleets of Northern Hemisphere nations. Be they from Europe, America or Asia th ey are plundering the Southern Oceans, including the CAMLAR waters as well as breaching EEZ boundaries as if the age of Imperialism and Colonial Exploitation was suddenly let loose anew.

We are looking, under very strict report controls, within our extensive Southern Zone for the species but commercial quantities have yet to be found. If there are stocks in our zone, our skippers will find them. I assure you they will not be plundered by New Zealanders. But what are our chances of protecting them if these stocks move in and out of our zone and the current rape and pillage continues apace around the bottom of the world? The New Zealand public accord a very low priority to Defence spending and most politicians reflect that. To the extent they reluctantly support it, they argue for a scale of equipment and forces singularly inadequate to deal effectively with what will be a growing problem. In a real sense, it is a problem which will go away - once the stocks are decimated there will be nothing to protect!

In this I speak not just of our Southern Zone but also of our North and in respect of the zones of our Pacific Island nation neighbours. Their very limited ability and our limited ability to effectively protect our zone boundaries will see Northern Hemisphere displaced distant water fleets clear out a substantial part of the worlds ocean within a couple of decades.

What sticks like a fishbone in ones throat is that without exception these fleets are heavily subsidised under one or more disguises, and not infrequently without any attempt at disguise by their host government. In a very real sense, they are as much instruments of their governments policies as are the naval forces of those nations. Their taxpayers fund both. To add insult to injury, nearly all impose either or both of tariff and quantitative import restrictions on the same species when caught by the local industry of the adjoining coastal state.

Consistent with all this was the absolute refusal of the nations to allow trade in seafood to be included in the Uruguay Round which lead to the World Trade Agreement. Yet again the resource, the future, came a bad second to politics.

These depressing tales only serve to spur me personally to action. We have seen real progress with the signing of the Convention on Straddling Stocks. New Zealand has led strongly in international fora as a very active member of the small Core Coastal States group of nations who were opposed almost to the bitter end by the major Northern Hemisphere fishing nations.

Now we must turn equally assertively to dramatically strengthen the Convention on the Law of the Sea in respect of the high seas themselves. As a Southern Hemisphere coastal state and as a member of the South Pacific community of Island Nations, we cannot accept that our ocean neighbourhood be stripped like some open cast mine and left a barren, even if watery, desert. The solution seem to me personally to lie in some extension of jurisdiction beyond the present 200 nautical miles. Our zone of interest certainly does not stop at that line. I have no authority to speak for the next government of New Zealand - whoever that might be and whenever it might be formed. But whether I am in it or not or whether I am Minister of Fisheries or not, I most certainly intend personally to seek out and work with like-minded interests at home and aboard to develop and promote additional measures to protect the fisheries resources at least of the Southern Hemisphere. If that is too big a brief then it cannot be impossible to get together the handful of Southern Ocean States to develop a system of guardianship or management responsibilities of the seas which are our zone of particular interest - they are the seas to our south and north of the CAMLAR Zone. I doubt if anything less will save the Patagonian Toothfish and the undoubted other species yet to be discovered or commercialised.

Maybe, CAMLAR could be strengthened, but I doubt if anything could be done in time. It appears to be observed more in the breach than in the performance in respect of fisheries.

If either of those are too much, then the bottom-line appears to me to be that we should seek to push out the 200 mile zone as far as we and like-minded nations are bold enough to assert and stand ready to defend on behalf of the future of the planet. This would be an enormous task and amongst other things would require New Zealanders to rethink their commitment to defence.

After all, it is only in our lifetimes that Chile shocked the diplomatic and fisheries world by unilaterally declaring the first extended zone in 1948. A further declaration in 1952 by Chile, Peru and Equador was denounced around the world with their solemn declarations that such Latin impudence would never be recognised. If only the world had followed those enlightened nations sooner the world fisheries outlook would be far better today. Would we dare become involved in such a bold initiative? Perhaps not. But with a few like-minded nations it could be worth a go. It would be one of the major contributions we could make to the future of the planet. It would certainly be a lot more exciting than the living death of caretaker government!!! While I have no authority to do anything, let alone propose future policies, there is nothing in the Manual which says one cannot think! In the meantime the future is quite literally being eaten. Well, while I am back to the mop and duster of caretaker Government, I wish you well in your deliberations. They matter.