Marine Stewardship Council: Sustainable Seafood Day

Icon Restaurant, Te Papa, Wellington

Monday 14 May, 6.00pm

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Thank you for the opportunity to come talk to you today. We are celebrating the opportunity we all have to identify and buy New Zealand fish, especially those recognised as meeting the high bar set by the Marine Stewardship Council for sustainable fisheries.

Fishing is important to the New Zealand economy and our society. It plays an important cultural and recreational role in New Zealand, as well as contributing 16,000 jobs and $4.2 billion in total economic activity. The global recognition of Brand New Zealand is key to our export fisheries, worth an estimated $1.6 billion to New Zealand.

New Zealanders expect our fisheries to be sustainably managed and need to have trust and confidence in how this is done. This has to be underpinned by transparency and accountability.

We have established Fisheries New Zealand to sharpen the lens on fisheries and improve our relationships with iwi and stakeholders to build trust in our fisheries management and the sustainability of our fisheries.

I have asked Fisheries New Zealand to be innovative in the way they engage and communicate with iwi, with communities, with fishers across all sectors and with the ENGOs.

The focus must be not on why things can’t be done but on how they can be.  My expectation of the team at Fisheries New Zealand is that they take a positive approach as solution providers and enablers.

 The certification by the MSC of these fisheries provides validation of the strong bones of our fisheries management system and our ability to manage sustainably with investment in robust science and collaborating to find innovative solutions that support the reputation of Brand New Zealand.

Certified New Zealand fisheries

Eight New Zealand fisheries have achieved Marine Stewardship Council certification.

Nearly 50% by volume of New Zealand’s wild-caught fish is currently certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, and certified products are worth an estimated $415 million per year in export value.

New Zealand’s journey with the Marine Stewardship Council began in 2001, when hoki became the first New Zealand fishery and also the first whitefish fishery globally to be recognised as meeting the Marine Stewardship Council certification requirements.

Since then, hoki has been recertified twice, and New Zealand hake, ling, southern blue whiting, albacore tuna, Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish, orange roughy, and most recently skipjack tuna, have also been recognised as meeting the certification requirements.

I’m happy to announce the recent publication of the public comment draft report for our hoki, hake, ling trawl fishery, southern blue whiting, and ling bottom longline fisheries. While the report is still draft and open for public comment, it is encouraging to see the initial recommendation that these key fisheries be certified with no conditions.

These certifications underpin New Zealand’s reputation for well-managed, sustainable fisheries and the recognition of Brand New Zealand worldwide.

MSC certification helps New Zealand fish products access premium markets. It provides consumers with assurances of the sustainability of the seafood and knowledge that they are buying products harvested with the future of our oceans in mind.

I am very keen to see value growth for our seafood industry through accreditation from schemes such as the Marine Stewardship Council, and broader consumer recognition of the quality and sustainability of New Zealand’s seafood products.


To support our brand credentials, and the ability to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification, requires a rigorous and defensible scientific evidence base.

The New Zealand government and the fishing industry invest heavily in fisheries science and research.

Research has demonstrated the health of the certified target stocks and the extent of the impacts of the fisheries on the environment, and has informed management and mitigation approaches.

It is important that fisheries data is both accurate and verifiable. Data sources include industry reporting of catch and effort, verified by returns from fish receivers, Fisheries New Zealand observers at sea who measure over half a million individual fish annually, multi-species trawl surveys, and complex statistical fish stock population models. All research outputs are thoroughly peer-reviewed to ensure they represent the best available information and provide a solid evidence base.


The certification of our fisheries against the standards set by the MSC has provided an opportunity to not only reflect on the success of our fisheries management system, but much more importantly for how we might continue to improve it.

Technological advancements, growing societal awareness of the importance of the marine environment, and shifting attitudes to fishing present both challenges and opportunities for fisheries management around the world.

I will strive to ensure that New Zealand’s fisheries management system continues to:

  • Foster confidence that our fisheries are sustainably managed, now and into the future;
  • Support innovative fishing practices – in fact provide a much greater incentive to innovate
  • Identify and act on opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of fisheries; and
  • Maintain New Zealand’s global brand in an increasingly competitive international marketplace, which is further enhanced by MSC certification.

In 2005 the then Ministry of Economic Development valued New Zealand’s global brand at $20 billion / annum and it will only have gone up from there.  Our ‘Clean-Green’ image cannot be replicated around the world.  It is our point of difference.

This requires New Zealand fisheries to be abundant, sustainable and well-managed to minimise the impacts on the environment. We can achieve this through:

  • Improved investment to support evidence-based decision making;
  • Iwi and community input; and 
  • Strong focus on innovation.


Innovation and use of technology to optimise the value of our fisheries is a passion of mine.

I am pleased to note the innovation that has brought us to where we are with the certification of some of our deepwater fisheries, notably the development of the new monitoring technology to better estimate biomass of orange roughy.[1]

Continuing to innovate and find ways to improve our fisheries management system is a priority for me, and I note the Government’s commitment towards the implementation of digital monitoring across New Zealand fisheries and our intent to shift further towards an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.

The roll out of the first phase of digital monitoring, electronic reporting and geo-positional reporting is well underway, and is providing near real-time data on all trawl vessels larger than 28 metres.

While we are working to confirm the timing for the roll out to the remainder of New Zealand’s fishing fleet, I am looking forward to the increase in available data and the opportunities this will provide for better use of data in order to allow for more informed management decisions.

I have also committed to moving further towards an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, to allow us to take a more integrated and holistic approach to managing the competing uses and values of all of New Zealand’s fisheries resources and the ecosystems that support them.

Closing remarks

The vision of the Marine Stewardship Council, ‘of the world’s oceans teeming with life, and seafood supplies safeguarded for this and future generations’ is relevant to and aligns with expectations of New Zealanders and what we aim to deliver as Fisheries New Zealand.

We all have a shared interest in healthy ocean ecosystems that support the provision of healthy seafood to New Zealanders and consumers around the world.  

To achieve this, the newly established Fisheries New Zealand will continue to focus on and increase constructive engagement with iwi and stakeholders, and celebrate where Brand New Zealand seafood is recognised internationally as being harvested sustainably.

We have plenty of work to do, but we have very solid foundations upon which to build our vision of abundance across all fisheries.

I look forward to New Zealand continuing to work constructively with the Marine Stewardship Council and striving to make all of our fisheries world-leading.






[1] The fishing industry introduced the Acoustic Optical System (a multi-frequency acoustic technology) to survey for orange roughy, making it possible to more accurately estimate current biomass.