Speech to the Seafood Sustainability Awards 2023

Oceans and Fisheries

Tena koutou katoa and welcome to Parliament.

It is a great pleasure for me to host you here today, for the second New Zealand Seafood Sustainability Awards.

The awards started in 2020 and officially, are to be held every two years.

But as with so many things, COVID got in the way last year, and so here we are today.

As you might know, I’m quite new in the role as Minister of Oceans and Fisheries – I’m new as a minister full stop!

But in the short time I’ve been in the job, I’ve been impressed by the efforts of many in the industry to make it more sustainable.

From fishing more selectively by tweaking gear and changing fishing practices, to coming up with clever new products that add value and make sure we use every part of the fish, you’re finding ways to do more with what you’ve got.

This is the idea that’s behind the draft Industry Transformation Plan that I released in April – and I’ll come back to that.

New Zealand’s seafood is a source of healthy, low-emissions protein and it’s in demand here and around the globe.

The past few years have been hard for everyone, including the seafood sector, and I’m pleased to see that seafood export revenue is forecast to recover 4 per cent to $2.0 billion in the year to 30 June.

And just last week, we saw the free-trade agreement the Government negotiated with the United Kingdom come into force.

The unprecedented access to the UK market this agreement gives our exporters will probably add a billion dollars a year to our GDP.

In the seafood sector, that means fish exports to the UK are now tariff-free, and the 20 per cent tariff on mussels will be gone in three years.

In other words, 46 per cent of our fish and seafood that will enter the UK trade over the coming year will not face any tariffs.

And after three years, it will be 99.5 per cent – that means increasing returns for your businesses.

But alongside this good news, we are facing very real challenges, including

  • climate change
  • increased sedimentation from what we do on the land, and from and adverse weather;
  • an ageing inshore vessel fleet
  • and increasing costs.

These are challenges that many of you know first-hand.

Importance of sustainability

Our biggest challenge is sustainability – making sure we minimise the impact fishing has on the environment, including the benthic ecosystem, marine mammals and sea biology,  and making sure there are enough fish in the water for future generations.

A sustainable future is not possible without innovation from the people who do the work on the sea.

I want to commend the calibre of the award entries tonight.

There are some impressive examples of innovation amongst our finalists from scientific research to innovative harvesting of pest species, new approaches to marine farming and more selective fishing practices.

As I said before, the need to create a more resilient, innovative sector is behind the draft Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan.

It’s an important opportunity for everyone to work collaboratively on a long-term vision for the industry and for our oceans.

The draft plan is out for consultation for a few more days – it closes at the end of this week!

I encourage you to read it and have a say on the proposal for a transformed, environmentally sustainable and profitable sector with the wellbeing of people and the oceans at the centre.


Now – to the real business of the night – the awards.

Tonight we have finalists from across all disciplines – people who are changing the way they fish and the way they do aquaculture.

People who are finding ways to deal with impacts on protected species, providing the science needed to manage our marine environment, educating communities and motivating others to get involved in the sustainable use of the oceans.

It is particularly pleasing to see three Iwi Fisheries Forums here tonight as finalists, and to be able to acknowledge the important role of tangata whenua as custodians of their rohe moana.

It is also encouraging to see those who are being recognised as finalists in the Future Leader category.

Hearing about what you’re doing to do things differently and better gives me hope, and I particularly enjoyed reading about the winners in the last round of awards.

Richard Wells was a big winner. He won both the Supreme Sustainability and Kaitiakitanga Awards.                                                                                            

The double award win recognised Richard’s extensive contributions as managing director of his company Resourcewise Ltd for more than 15 years, supported by, and working with organisations like Deepwater Group, Fisheries Inshore NZ and the Department of Conservation to create, operationalise and manage protected species risk reduction programmes.

He supported scientific research on protected species to help deep-water fishing vessels adopt protection systems that reduced bycatch of creatures such as sea lions, dolphins and albatrosses - a remarkable shift in how such fleets approached environmental impacts of fishing.

The CRA8 Rock Lobster Industry Association  won the Operational Innovation Award in recognition of its efforts to ensure the ongoing sustainable and profitable harvest in its management area which covers the Southern region of South Westland, Fiordland, Stewart Island and the Catlins.

The organisation put in a management strategy that builds the abundance of the fishery to a high level and voluntarily adheres to conservative catch levels.

This means its members can target fishing effort to periods of high demand and prices (such as the Chinese New Year) to extract the most value from the fishery.

The last awards also recognised Nelson’s Meagan Blom, who was just 19 years old when she was named a finalist in the emerging leaders category.

Working at her parents’ mussel farm Mills Bay Mussels, Meagan has a vision of raising the profile of mussels from a cheap commodity to a high-quality sustainable food, on a par with clams and oysters.

She also helped establish Young Fish, which is a bit like Young Farmer of the Year, for the seafood industry.


So, I am really looking forward to hearing the stories behind this year’s awards.

Thank you, winners, finalists and everyone who was nominated - for being courageous enough to innovate and for protecting our seafood sector, our oceans and our way of life.

Your example will inspire others to do better.

No reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou. Thank you for joining us here this evening.


Winners of this year's awards are:

Operational Innovator Award

Winner: Domjan Talijancich

Finalists: Lucas Evans, Premium Seas Limited; and Paul Smith, Sc &S Floats

Market Innovator Award

Winner: Lucas Evans, Premium Seas Limited

Finalists: Troy Bramley and Claire Edwards, Tora Collective; and Alex Worker, New Fish

Ocean Guardian Award

Winner:          Scott and Sue Tindale, Tindale Marine Research

Finalists:        Dr Keith Michael, NIWA; and Adam Hutchinson, NZ Fishing Rules App

Tangata Kaitiaki/Tiaki Award

Winner:          Mai-Paritu-tae-atu-ki-Turakirae Fisheries Forum

Finalists:        Ngaa Hapuu o Te Uru o Tainui Iwi Fisheries Forum; and Mai i Ngā Kuri a Whārei ki Tihirau Fisheries Forum

Future Leader Award

Winner:          Sarah Bynevelt, Sanford

Finalists:        Troy Bramley and Claire Edwards, Tora Collective; and Ben Pierce, Young Fish

Supreme Sustainability Award

Winner:          Scott and Sue Tindale, Tindale Marine Research

Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Award

Winner:          Storm Stanley and Jeremy Cooper, Pāua Industry Council