Speech at the 11th International Abalone Symposium

Oceans and Fisheries Trade and Export Growth

Thank you to the organisers for the opportunity to welcome you all to the 11th International Abalone Symposium on behalf of the New Zealand Government.

I acknowledge the Māori leaders attending today.

Welcome, in particular, to those that have travelled long distances to be here. I understand there are delegates from around 15 countries from Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas and Australia. Thank you for being here. The expertise gathered together for this symposium is impressive.

As Minister of State for Trade and Export, I am impressed that abalone aquaculture is a billion-dollar business. Aotearoa New Zealand is currently only a small player in what we call the paua industry, but through my experience in the fishing sector I know we have a history of innovation, an ideal marine environment and some exciting work underway in this field, as featured in this week’s presentations.

I realise there are some unique challenges associated with aquaculture of our pāua species, but there are also unique market opportunities given they are found nowhere else in the world, and in my view, tastes the best in the world.

I hope this symposium provides practical inspiration and new opportunities for all those involved in aquaculture of Aotearoa New Zealand pāua.

While pāua aquaculture is relatively new to us and still small in scale, we have an important wild fishery for pāua with a long history that we are proud of and value immensely.

Pāua are a taonga of special cultural significance for Māori, and we are also significant players in the commercial fishery which, while small in comparison to overseas production of abalone at under 1,000 tonnes, is an important source of employment for us and our coastal communities. The industry has worked hard to move toward a high value export product. For example, I am excited to see the move from canned and frozen product to higher value live exports and, potentially, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.

I would like to acknowledge at this point the iwi groups and kaitiaki who are our Māori partners and guardians who continue work tirelessly to safeguard the pāua fishery. I also acknowledge the way in which iwi and the pāua fishing industry have organised themselves to put in place proactive measures such as industry fisheries plans and pāua restocking and enhancement. I note the ability to undertake this is a direct consequence of the work that went into aquaculture development of pāua in the early 2000s.

In some areas the high value New Zealanders place on pāua creates challenges, just in terms of the sheer number of people wanting to enjoy the experience of fishing for pāua for their families. I see from the programme there are several speakers covering this topic, and hope the symposium is a chance to exchange information and ideas on this issue, which is one that is common to other countries with wild abalone fisheries.

And finally, beyond fishing, the changes we are seeing in the climate and coastal environment, and that we are very aware of given recent flooding events, are driving concerning shifts in the abundance of pāua. I understand that ocean acidification is a particular issue for pāua, and I am pleased to see a number of relevant papers and presentations on these issues in sessions of the symposium. I hope these provide information and guidance to help us adapt and, where feasible, mitigate the negative impacts of these shifts.

In closing, nau mai haere mai, thanks again for coming to the symposium, I hope it is your most productive symposium yet! And I look forward to hearing how the sessions have gone.

“Paua te mana o paua ki te tai, kia whakaika te moana”

Tena koutou, tena koutou tena tatou katoa.