THE NEW ZEALAND MARINE FARMING ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE

  • John Luxton
Fisheries and Aquaculture

PICTON

Special Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to talk to you today.

Background
As a New Minister of Fisheries I may be new to marine farming but I am no stranger to `farming' and he understands the economic and other pressures that primary producers face. One might consider your sector to be the most advanced part of the fishing sector in sustainable management.

I am aware that representatives of the marine farming industry have raised some concerns about the commitment of Government to their sector.

Although aquaculture is not formally mentioned in the Coalition agreement, there should be no doubt in the minds of marine farmers that Government recognises their sector to be of vital importance to our nation.

Production
It is fair to say that the combination of flat markets for seafood internationally, and the value of the New Zealand dollar, have offered limited opportunity for market growth over the last three or four years. However recent changes in the dollar perhaps provide optimism for the future.

For a sector that is 90% dependant on international trade, it is no secret to say that some parts of the seafood industry do face difficult times.

In this context, it is especially satisfying to see the overall value of farmed marine seafood increasing.

The marine farming industry is a significant earner of export dollars, and in 1995 aquaculture exports represented $160 million, about 16% of total seafood revenue.

Oyster, paua, and salmon farming contribute to this revenue but Greenshell Mussels continue to provide the backbone of production.

Mussel industry
Given that the NZMFA conference is being held in Picton, it is perhaps appropriate to focus on the recent performance of the mussel farming industry that is now so well established in the Marlborough Sounds.

The NZFIB mussel export statistics for the calendar year 1996 show the NZ$ FOB value as increasing to $97.5 million, an increase of over 10.5 million on the previous year despite exchange rates.

This is a healthy increase and represents a staggering development from the situation just ten years ago when the NZ$ FOB value of the entire mussel industry was just 12 million.

The challenge for us all today, is to safeguard this production by ensuring that we understand and manage the factors that contribute to the maintenance of both a healthy sustainable fishery, and an economically sound and internationally competitive industry.

The need for an absolute focus on quality assurance cannot be over emphasised through all stages to the consumer.

Research and environment
The forward looking approach that the mussel industry has adopted in the development of the Mussel Industry `Research Portfolio', which includes consideration of factors as wide ranging as spat retention on one hand to environmental management on the other, is an excellent example of this type of proactive thinking.

With the passing of each year it becomes ever more important for the marine farming industry to match its actions, with the clean green `truly sustainable' image that it wants to project to the market place and to other users of the marine environment.

The release of the Mussel Industry `Environmental Policy' earlier this year marked another real step forward in this respect.

This policy expresses the mussel industry's commitment to ensuring that all of its activities, from spat collection to disposal of waste materials, are managed in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.

Government applauds this approach and views the wise use of the environment as a precondition to maintaining the long-term sustainability of the mussel industry.

Stakeholder rights and relationships
It is my view that we have reached a point in the development of fisheries management in New Zealand where it is vital that the industry and other stakeholders begin to assume a far greater level of responsibility to collective manage fisheries within appropriate sustainability parameters.

Issues associated with the recent expansion in the amount of area taken up for marine farming in the Marlborough Sounds has highlighted the need to perhaps reconsider the nature of the legislative framework within which marine farming operates.

We must re-examine the way in which all stakeholders are involved in the process of managing the fishery and their relationships with each other.

Depending on your particular perspective, passage of the Resource Management Amendment Bill No.3 that is currently before Parliament, may help in this respect.

Irrespective of the fate of this Bill, if we are to fully realise the range of opportunity that lies in front of the marine farming industry, there remains a clear need to continue work on the overarching issues of stakeholder rights definition, allocation and integration.

Opportunities for further significant development and enhancement will be placed on a secure footing once these issues have been traversed.

Conclusion
The Crown understands that all stakeholders want a strategic direction that will deliver sustainable fisheries for future generations. In particular, marine farmers being primary producers, also want an economically sound industry.

It is my view that with the combination of an environmentally responsible approach to industry development, and the application of a comprehensive rights-based framework for management, we can deliver both.

I look forward to moving towards that vision as fast, as comfortable and as sensible as possible.