• John Luxton
Fisheries and Aquaculture


Thankyou Paul Hargraves CEO, Don Sollitt Chairman. special guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Sustainable Utilisation
Fishing is about sustainable utilisation. Fishing is about utilising our valuable fishing resource for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Fishing is about managing that utilisation in a sustainable, responsible way so that not only ourselves but also our children can throw a line in the water and catch a fish, or utilise the resource in a commercial way to feed their children.

New Zealands fisheries are a valuable source of social, cultural and economic well being for many. Maori have strong cultural ties with fisheries and these are recognised in common law and legislation. It is estimated that 20 percent of New Zealands population are recreational fishers. The value of production from the New Zealand seafood industry is over $1.2 billion.

I am thrilled to report that I can now count myself as a successful recreational big game fisherman. Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the Bay of Islands Swordfish Clubs tag and release tournament. I caught a fish. It was an incredibly bigKing Fish. But I have contributed to sustainability by tagging and releasing so that somebody else can catch it and experience the thrills that I have.

My goal as the new Fisheries Minister is to build on progress to date to enhance sustainable utilisation, and ensure that we continue to have an ongoing, and an increasing fishery resource for both current and future generations to enjoy.

Team effort
But to achieve this we need a team effort. All of you here tonight are part of that team. One of the first things I have learnt as new Fisheries Minister is that there are a large and diverse range of stakeholders and interested parties. Secondly I have learnt that often their interest are perceived to be in some conflict.

The message I want to give to you and all other stakeholders is that we all have a common goal. We are all part of the same team. We should all be working to achieve sustainable utilisation. If all stakeholders were to focus on this then perhaps we can make even bigger gains.

Information It is perhaps appropriate that we are on this ship, the Tangaroa, this evening with many of the relevant government sector stakeholders. It is appropriate because this ship and the Government sector here, contribute to meeting one of the biggest challenges that we have to sustainably utilise our resource - information.

The mainstay of New Zealands fisheries management system is the Quota Management System. The mainstay of the QMS is information and ongoing knowledge of the state of the fish stocks and the impact of fishing on them. This knowledge comes from the purchase of fisheries research.

Success of the QMS
Since its introduction in 1986, in general the QMS has been successful. It is widely supported by the New Zealand fishing industry.

The value of industry production grew 130% between 1986 and 1996 and employment in the sector grew 25%.

In New Zealand ITQs are expressed as a proportion of a catch limit. This catch limit is set, on the basis of scientific information, which will move the fish stock in question towards a biomass size which will support the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

The overall performance in this regard has been good. Of the fish stocks with known status, 85% are above, at, or very close to Bmsy with rebuilding strategies in place for the remaining 15 %.

I suggest to you that in relative international terms, New Zealands fish stocks are in very good shape. I am, however, looking forward to the day when New Zealand can report that there are no fish stocks below Bmsy.

Quality of information used in setting TACs
One of the key policy initiatives of the Coalition Agreement is to review the quality of information in setting TACCs.

The Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is set within the TAC after allowing for:

Maori customary fishing interests;
recreational interests;
other extractions (e.g. illegal take), and
any allowable catch for foreign fishing.
Although there is information available on the level of recreational take for the QMS species, relatively little information is available on Maori customary take and the level of illegal take for incorporation into stock assessment models. This is an area where more information is needed, especially for inshore fishstocks.

There are currently 179 fishstocks managed under the QMS of which 30 were created largely for administrative purposes (eg. QMA 10 - Kermadecs), leaving a total of 149 stocks. Based on the 1996 stock assessments, the status of 81 of these stocks relative to MSY was not known. Of the balance most are believed to be at, above, or near the level that can produce the MSY.

Some preliminary research has also been carried out on some of the non-QMS species allocated as high priority species to be integrated into the QMS.

To this extent MFish is well aware of the information gaps that exist in terms of non-commercial take and the stock status for many stocks, particularly those outside of the QMS. Addressing these gaps requires a careful balancing of the costs of that additional research with the benefits that the information will provide.

Paua and other poachers
While we are touching on the subject of the illegal catch, I would like to make a comment on the people who are caught with a car boot loads of paua, rock lobster or other poached species.

I believe these poachers should pay a high price for their greedy and selfish behaviour. They should face the full might of the law if found guilty of poaching.

They are theives and are stealing a valuable resource from the community, and also from commercial fishermen who have a legitimate right to harvest the resource.

Poaching does not help sustainability. Poachers know this but still choose to flout the law that is there for all New Zealanders benefit. While guilty poachers can face fines up to $250,000 and forfeit property used in committing the offence, perhaps they dont face the full force of the law enough.

We are now moving towards a more contestable research environment. In this environment the process for determining future research priorities is managed by the Ministry of Fisheries. The Ministry will also set the standards and specifications, audit, monitor and evaluate fisheries research services.

A measure of contestability has been introduced in 1996/97, with eight contestable research contracts commencing on 1 October 1996 with value of $700,000.

Only contracts which did not require specialist scientific equipment or access to the Crowns fisheries databases were made contestable. Tenders were invited and let to the tenderer who, based on the evaluation by the Ministry of Fisheries, is best able to provide the required service.

Planning is underway to make all research contracts contestable after 1 October 1997. Applications for 1997/98 contracts were invited in December 1996. Formal consultation on the nature and extent of fisheries research services has begun. Once the required research services have been determined by me, the Minister, tenders will be evaluated and contracts awarded accordingly.

Any delay in the development of full contestability of research services may raise concerns within the commercial fishing industry. The contractual relationship between the Ministry and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has been subject to a Commerce Commission preliminary investigation.

I am a strong advocate for contestability in most areas of both central and local government. I hope that we can carefully introduce more contestability in fisheries research to maximise the benefits while minimising the costs for providers, managers and industry

Contestability, I believe, should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. For example while I was Police Minister I made the position of Police Commissioner openly contestable. While there was an outcry of privatisation and heresy from some, the end result was a police commissioner from police ranks who has the improved status of being the best candidate not just from police, but from all comers world-wide.

I am sure that NIWAs status will also be enhance further by contestability as well.

Cost recovery
I am very aware that there is an increased level of dissatisfaction with the cost recovery mechanism. The issue is complicated because of the extra resource the Ministry is seeking to recoup from commercial fishers for the implementation of the Fisheries Act 1996.

There is no doubt that the Cost Recovery system is unique. This makes comparison with the operation of other levy systems difficult. However, like any system we need to continually work to improve and refine it. I am sure that some criticisms of industry are not valid, but I am sure that some possibly are.

The Crown does not recover costs from the commercial fishing industry for all the Ministry of Fisheries services. A Crown/Industry split has been established which is used to apportion costs based on the service provided.

As you know the select committee is conducting a review of the cost recovery mechanism. While I note that the levies received for this year are less than those of last year, I hope that we can continue to make progress with the cost recovery system.

In conclusion Thankyou for having me here today. I believe it is important that all involved in the fishing sector focus on sustainable utilisation. We should all be on the same team.

Fisheries research and the information it provides is vital if we are to successfully manage our fishery for the benefit of both todays and tomorrows generations.

I know it is not an easy market for the fishing sector to operate in out there at the moment. But what we often find in both public and private sectors is that it is the leaner times which are the catalyst for the most innovation, new ideas and improvements in quality, which can lay new foundations for long-term progress.

New Zealand has lead the world in its fisheries management. I look forward to working with you and all the other stakeholders in this important sector as we continue to sustainably utilise our fisheries resource. Thank you.