Submitted 18 May 2007: View the NZ Conservation Authority's submission regarding the Initial position paper: Altering the Fisheries (Cost Recovery) Rules 2001 with respect to the benthic protected areas accord.

Date of submission: 18 May 2007
Submitted to: Ministry of Fisheries

The NZCA considers that the approach proposed in the Initial Position Paper (IPP)

  • is not an appropriate or sustainable approach to the management of fisheries,
  • places undue constraint upon the Minister of Fisheries, and
  • will not meet the long term interests of the New Zealand public.

The NZCA considers that there is a need for sound and appropriate research to underpin the management of sustainable fisheries.  Restrictions on the funding of deepwater benthic research as proposed in the IPP are not justified as a result of the implementation of the Benthic Protected Areas Accord.

On 31 August 2006 the Authority wrote to the Minister of Fisheries about the Benthic Protected Area (BPA) Proposal. At that time the NZCA expressed concern that the BPA Proposal recommended restrictions on research and acquisition of new knowledge about the NZ marine area. The NZCA urged the Minister to “decline to be constrained in any way by the “existence, size and scale” of any approved benthic protection area when considering proposals for other marine protection measures or the need for or funding of research related to the need for marine protected areas”. The NZCA would have expected that the fishing industry would be keen to extend the knowledge base on which decisions are made so that sustainable management of our fishing and other marine resources can be achieved.

When the Quota Management System (QMS) was introduced to New Zealand in 1986 it was considered to be a world leading approach to the management of fisheries. Many stakeholders still believe that the system is strongly grounded in information and science – and that the QMS ensures resource sustainability. The fisheries management system in New Zealand is based on total allowable catch (TAC), and is oriented around the concept of maximum sustainable yield – a system which is information hungry.  Twenty years on, however, our knowledge of the fishing stocks is far from adequate and we have even less understanding of multi-species assemblages or of the impacts of fishing on biodiversity and ecosystems. Of the 84 fish stocks with annual landings greater than 500t, the stock status is uncertain for 65% of the stocks, known to be declining in 6%, and only 29% of stocks have assessments available that indicate a current biomass that is greater than the biomass at which maximum sustainable yield would be maintained (Ministry of Fisheries 2006, cited in McKoy 2007*).
We have a system of “Cost recovery”, recovering the costs of managing fisheries from quota holders. Unfortunately this system appears to result in incentives for fishers and quota owners to argue against research. Over the past 20 years of stock assessment discussions it has been very clear that quota owners are not necessarily acting in the multi-generational interests of New Zealanders but rather appear to be responding to a range of short term incentives for example economic issues. McKoy (2007) observed “The cost recovery system provides a particularly powerful perverse incentive which has directly impacted fisheries research capability.” 

Before 1995 the government paid for almost all research on fisheries.  Since the introduction of cost recovery there has been a steady decline in the dollar value of fisheries research expenditure. Since 1986 the export value of fisheries has more than doubled and fisheries are now the fourth largest exporter (following dairy, meat and forestry). However, relative to export earnings fisheries research expenditure has declined from more than 3% of export earning to ca. 1%. As McKoy noted “the development of the expertise and knowledge about our resources has nowhere near kept up with the pressure on the resources”.

It is not clear to the NZCA how the establishment of the BPAs [11 (b)] “alters the balance between cost recovery principles in the Fisheries Act such that it is appropriate to adjust the proportion of the costs borne by industry for deepwater benthic research for fisheries services”. 

The BPAs have been established in areas where there has been no current commercial activity – either because the areas are at depths currently inaccessible to fishing technologies or because they are not viable for commercial activity.  As stated in the IPP [10]: “... The areas proposed for closure are largely unfished…”.  The fact is that the areas within the BPA Accord, as largely unfished areas, were not at risk from trawling: these areas were in effect already protected owing to their depth, and lack of commercial value. 

The NZCA does not understand how the protection of these areas through the BPA Accord should result in a capping of the total amount spent on benthic deepwater research.  The fishing industry wishes to cap its contribution to deepwater research at $333,000, an amount that would pay for less than 8 days of sea-time on a research vessel – and would not cover the costs of research workers, data collection and analysis.  With the establishment of the BPA Accord there will be no change in the fishing areas impacted by deepwater fisheries –the fishing industry will be continuing to exert the impacts in the two-thirds of the EEZ where it currently fishes. 
The NZCA opposes any constraint on either the proportion or the dollar value of the cost recovery applied to benthic deepwater research.  This is in our view short sighted and not in the interests of the management of fisheries and the marine area around New Zealand.

There is no reference in the IPP to the responsibilities the Minister of Fisheries has under Section 11 of the Fisheries Act.  At present we have no knowledge for any fish stock on the effects of fishing on habitats, biodiversity or associated independent species.

The New Zealand legislation currently applied to the EEZ is the Fisheries Act 1996, which amongst other things provides for:

  • ensuring sustainability” through “Avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment…” (Section 8 (2b))

and that all persons shall take into account the following environmental principles:

  • (a) Associated or dependent species should be maintained above a level that ensures their long-term viability;
  • (b) Biological diversity of the aquatic environment should be maintained.

The Minister needs to consider the obligations to protect the resources for future generations and the need to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects of fishing on the marine environment.

Section 5 of the Fisheries Act requires decision makers to act in a manner consistent with “New Zealand’s international obligations relating to fishing”.  Amongst these obligations is the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code of Conduct on Responsible Fisheries (1995) which states that:

  • “6.5 States and subregional and regional fisheries management organizations should apply a precautionary approach widely to conservation, management and exploitation of living aquatic resources in order to protect them and preserve the aquatic environment, taking account of the best scientific evidence available. The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take measures to conserve target species, associated or dependent species and non-target species and their environment.”

The NZCA is concerned that the information needed for wise resource management is not available now and that the changes proposed in the IPP will further undermine the research base and the acquisition of new knowledge. As currently configured, the fisheries management regime in New Zealand incorporates cost recovery to support research.  The proposal in the IPP by restricting the types of research to be funded and the amount of funds to be directed to deepwater benthic research will not equip fisheries managers with the best information on which to make decisions for the future.

The Authority has prepared a set of Marine Principles and these are appended for your information.

*McKoy, J. 2007. Fisheries and fisheries research in New Zealand. NZ Science Review 63: 56-58.

The New Zealand Conservation Authority - Marine Principles


  • Protection of marine biodiversity and marine ecosystems and marine landforms unique to New Zealand is a national and international responsibility.
  • The marine environment will be governed for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
  • The marine environment is viewed as a taonga – there for everybody and upon
     which we rely, rather than as a resource base on which to create property rights.
  • Any allocation of rights to use marine resources will be based on robust and
    appropriate, environmental research.
  • Decision-making will be informed by traditional knowledge of tangata whenua along with new sources of information and research.
  • Where there is insufficient information, the precautionary principle will apply.

Preservation and Protection

  • Priority for protection will be afforded to our unique indigenous flora and fauna.
  • Responsibilities to future generations requires that non-extractive values of the marine environment – intrinsic values, wildness values, spiritual values, ecosystem services1 - are protected.
  • A spectrum of protection mechanisms will be employed to enable communities to be involved in the protection and preservation as well as the rehabilitation and use of marine ecosystems (e.g. taiapure, mahinga mataitai, reserves).
  • Representative, rare, and special marine ecosystems will be preserved in perpetuity as “no take”2  areas within the limit of the EEZ.

Sustainable Use

  • The marine environment will be sustainably managed in a way that maintains its potential for future generations.
  • The marine and terrestrial environments will be managed in an integrated way that recognises the complex inter-relationships of land, sea and atmosphere.
  • Rights to use the marine environment should be exercised in an ecologically sustainable manner.
  • Where finite resources are being used e.g. mining of finite resources, this is to be carried out in a manner that mitigates the adverse impacts of the activity on the marine environment.

1 Ecosystem services are the natural resources which underpin sustainability. These substantially add to the quality of life. Up till now no economic value has been put on them – i.e. natural resources such as clean water and air, or the ocean as a means of transport and waste disposal have been taken for granted. New economic models are being developed to put a dollar value on these services.
2 By “no take” the Authority means nothing to be taken in the column from sea surface to seabed.

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