Speech to Seafood New Zealand conference, Wellington

Oceans and Fisheries

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Thank you Jeremy, members of the Seafood New Zealand Board, conference organisers, fellow Members of Parliament and all of you for being here.

It feels like we’ve seen quite a bit of each other lately.

Last week, I launched the Fishing Industry Transformation Plan in Nelson; took part in the launches of the Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana Marine Protection Bill, the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan and the State of the Gulf report in Auckland; and travelled to Lyttelton to announce new mātaitai.

And we have also just introduced the Fisheries (International Fishing and Other Matters) Amendment Bill into Parliament, which will strengthen our ability to manage fisheries and enforce the rules outside our waters.

Quite a bit of work that will help protect our oceans for future generations.

Performance of the seafood sector

Your sector is an important source of food, income and jobs.

In the year to June, it earned us a record $2.1 billion in export revenue, and employed nearly 12,500 people.

I know the past couple of years – the Covid Years – have been especially tough for the industry, with demand for seafood down here at home, and overseas.

I am pleased to see the industry is recovering, driven by higher prices for rock lobster, mussels, hoki and salmon, and the continued reopening of the food service industry around the world.

The medium-term outlook is positive, with revenue forecast to continue rising over the next year.

The work the Government has done in securing unprecendented market access into the United Kingdom and Europe will also make a real difference.

Our UK free-trade agreement, which came into force on the 31st of May, is worth a billion dollars a year to our primary industries, and means fish exports into the UK are now tariff-free, with mussels to follow.

And the EU FTA we have recently negotiated will, once it comes into force, lead to estimated annual tariff savings for the industry of $19.6 milion a year.

That means more of the sale price coming home to you.

I acknowledge, however, that you still face many challenges, including high production costs, changing market conditions and global uncertainties. 

Industry Transformation Plan

I am pleased to see that the theme for your conference this year is ‘Seafood for a new generation’ because we need to be thinking now about how New Zealand can continue to provide people at home and overseas with high-quality seafood.

As I said, last week I launched of the Fisheries Industry Transformation plan, Mahere Takahuritanga Ahumahi Hao Ika.

It is a long-term vision for the commercial fishing industry – a plan to do better - developed alongside the seafood sector

It’s 22 actions include:

  • Identifying new technologies, fishing gear and practices to reduce the impact fishing has on the seafloor and on protected species.
  • Expanding medical, cosmetic and nutraceutical products from seafoods so we can earn more without catching more.
  • Developing skilled jobs for New Zealanders and ways to earn more from the fish we catch.
  • Promoting domestic consumption of New Zealand seafood, including encouraging local purchasing of fish.

I acknowledge the hard work of the ITP leadership group, which included Jeremy (Helson) and was made up of people with iwi, industry, workers, food innovation and the environment sector backgrounds.

I also want to thank the more than 3300 people who provided feedback during the consultation period.

Now the work of implementation begins. The actions in the plan will require commitment and investment from across  industry, government, scientists, educational institutions, and NGOs.

The Government is committed to the aspirations and actions in the ITP and we will play our part to support innovation and economic growth. 

There are also lots of actions in the ITP that will need industry to lead and resource, and I encourage you to think about your role and how you can get involved.


Recently, I hosted the Seafood Sustainability Awards, celebrating contributions to sustainability and innovation across the seafood sector.

There is some great work being done, and I am particularly keen to seey the work of someone who I hope is here today.

Dom Talijancich, known to many of you after his presentation at the conference last year, is an impressive young Nelson fisher who has apparently developed a camera with machine-learning algorithms that identify fish species entering a trawl net in real-time.

This means more selective fishing and less impact on the marine ecosystem. This is the kind of thinking we need, which is why in the ITP there are actions to reduce barriers to innovating with fishing gear and to encourage fishers to use the most up-to-date fishing gear and methods.

On-board cameras

Installing cameras on our inshore fishing fleet is another  key part of the Government’s fishing reforms, and is an example of innovative practice.

I was very pleased to be onboard Keven Saunders’ vessel The Streaker when the cameras went live on the first group of 23 boats this month.

This is a real milestone in ensuring our fisheries have the reputation for sustainability consumers here in New Zealand and overseas are demanding, and we’ll have around 70 more boats operating cameras by the end of the year.

More collaboration

As well as innovation, we need collaboration.

For a great example of this, I turn once again to the Seafood Sustainability Awards, where I was pleased to present the Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Award to the Pāua Industry Council – Storm Stanley and Jeremy Cooper, who I think are here today.

This is one of the few places in the world with a thriving wild pāua fishery.

For more than 40 years, Storm and Jeremy have worked hard to develop innovative, data-led fisheries plans. 

But what really came through to me was how they work collaboratively and always seek buy-in from industry, iwi and the broader community.

Hauraki Gulf 

Another example of great collaboration is the development of the Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan, which, as I said, we launched in Auckland last week. 

The Hauraki Gulf is one of the country’s most valued and intensively used coastal spaces, providing seafood that is enjoyed in restaurants and takeaways around the country.

Its waters and islands support a huge range of species, from seabirds to seabed-dwelling corals.

The Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan is the first fisheries plan for a specific geographic area, and the first to take an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.

In developing it, we worked with iwi and a cross-sector technical advisory group with people from commercial, recreational, and environmental groups, as well as the Department of Conservation and regional councils.

The work was not easy, but the result is an integrated plan to improve the health of the Gulf, and I thank you for your constructive input.

At the same time, we launched the Hauraki Gulf/Tikapa Moana Marine Protection Bill, which  creates 19 new marine protection areas and triples the amount of marine protection in the gulf, from about 6 per cent to 18 per cent.

In my view, both are essential to the long-term health of the Hauraki Gulf and to the future of your fisheries.

If you need convincing, take a look at the State of Our Gulf report published last Friday – it’s a frank and somewhat frightening analysis of what’s happening to one of the most beautiful and productive waterways in the world.

Reading it, it is easy to understand why many members of the public think bottom-trawling in the Hauraki Gulf  and beyond should be banned.

Of the 91 letters about bottom trawling I received in the past week, all have called for a total ban.

As an industry, you cannot ignore this depth of public feeling, and I urge you to think about how you are addressing it.

The decision to allow limited amounts of trawling in designated areas to continue is based on:

  • scientific advice about the best way to protect the environment;
  • concern about the impact on neighbouring areas if those fishing practices are simply displaced and moved to Northland and the Bay of Plenty;
  • and the need to protect livelihoods during hard times.

Trawling is currently banned from 27 per cent of the Gulf. The exact size and location of the trawl corridors will be publicly consulted on soon, and I expect the options put forward will be a significant change from the current situation.

Land activities

I also want to mention some of the work happening in another of my portfolios – as Associate Minister for the Environment.

For too long, we have failed to recognise that what we do on the land affects the sea.

Today, two bills that are part of our resource management reforms are likely to pass their third readings in Parliament.

The Natural and Built Environment Bill, and the Spatial Planning Bill, give us the tools to up our game, manage land properly and cut the amount of sedimentation that is washing into the sea.

As well as resource management reform, the changes we’ve made to keep livestock out of waterways, to limit the amount of nitrogen other synthetic fertilisers that can be applied on farms, and to control stock on steep slopes are already showing results.

Nitrogen fertiliser use is dropping, winter grazing practices have improved, and farm-related greenhouse gas emissions are coming down.

Recently, Waikato and Southland farmers became the first to be required to have freshwater farm plans in place.

We’re also looking at how water entities can include provisions that make it clear how stormwater networks should be managed on private land.

Climate change

And then there’s climate change.  Ocean acidification, marine warming, increased storms washing more sediment down rivers and into the sea, disrupted breeding, damage to the food chain causing species to starve…we all know and fear the serious threats of climate change.

This year, northern parts of the country have been hit by huge storms, including Cyclone Gabrielle, while southern parts of the country have had droughts.

This Government is the first New Zealand Government to really take climate change seriously. We’ve passed the Zero Carbon Act, set the country’s first carbon budgets, developed the first emissions reduction plan and – finally – Aotearoa New Zealand is bending the curve on emissions.


The best way to prepare for the impacts of climate change and to make sure we’ve got a sustainable seafood sector for future generations is for our oceans to be as healthy as possible.

That requires commitment from you. Again, I thank you for your contribution in engaging on the Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan and look forward to working with you in future.

No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.