Principle 3

Manage fisheries in the national interest

Manage our fisheries in the national interest to ensure maximum value is derived from the exploitation of marine resources, for the benefit of current and future generations

The Situation

We admit, this is a tough one to fully grasp the significance of. We openly encourage your questions – it’s a humongous topic but one that LegaSea will no longer shy away from!

According to the United Nations Convention On the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS), all of the fish in our Exclusive Economic Zone belong to the people of New Zealand, and at no point in the past has this changed. Today, the fish remain the property of New Zealand.

The Quota Management System (QMS) does not give ownership of our fish to any individual or entity, our fish remain a common resource. However, the QMS has enabled individuals and corporates to own quota, and since the 1992 Deed of Settlement Maori have had a signficant stake in commercial fishing.

Every year the Minister decides how much can be caught in a particular fishery and the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC). The TACC is split between the quota owners based on the size of their shareholding. Annual Catch Entitlement (ACE) is issued based on the TACC, this ACE lasts for a year and can be traded by anyone with a fishing permit.

All commercial allocation is made at the Minister’s discretion, the law allows for the TACC to be set at zero.

So owning quota, or TACC shares, gives a right to catch a certain amount of fish each year (as decided by the Minister) but does not give the quota holder ownership of the fishery or part thereof. As a rough comparison, your drivers license gives you a right to drive on the road, but it doesn’t give you ownership of the roads.

  • Around 90% of commercially caught fish is exported, most of it caught using foreign crews from countries such as Russia, Korea, China, and Indonesia to benefit from exploitatively cheap labour costs. The frozen fish is then shipped direct to China for further processing, leaving New Zealand with hardly any benefit at all.
  • It is flawed policy to consider that exporting fish for low value use with no added value is the best use of New Zealand’s marine resources.
  • Policies need to be reset so New Zealand enjoys the full benefits arising from exploiting its marine resources.

What this means for you

Our country is missing out on significant revenues that should rightfully be collected by the Treasury. Those revenues that could be spent on housing, health, education and environmental protection are instead being collected by private quota owners.

These private quota owners are often just investors who have nothing to do with fishing, have never got their feet wet, and certainly don’t own the resource.

As an example, about $15 for every kg of snapper fillets sold in a supermarket is being paid to the quota owner by the fisherman who actually caught the fish. That fisherman is only receiving a few dollars yet he did all the hard work.

There is no excuse for New Zealand allowing the public royalty for exploitation of its fishery resources to be captured by private interests. This isn’t permitted in other industries that exploit publicly owned resources, such as forestry, commercial ventures on DOC estate, marine farming, oil and gas, and was never intended to happen in fisheries.

The monopoly that exists because of the quota management system creates royalties and it’s vital that these are collected on behalf of the public and our kids. Leaving them to be collected by private interests is what drives dumping and illegal activities, and destroys all the national benefits the QMS has to offer.

Iceland has experienced similar failures of the top down approach in their fisheries. The wealth simply didn’t “trickle through” their economy when it was in the hands of private companies – it never does. Iceland is now seeking to address the failures and ensure the wealth generated by the use of their fisheries is shared with the nation.

Our kids are missing out on benefits because of the way the Quota Management System is being applied.

LegaSea's Solution

We need a royalty on commercial fishing so that the nation can get fair compensation for the private utilisation of the resources that we all own.

If implemented well, collecting a resource royalty from fishing will:

  • Produce an income for the nation from the sale of billions of dollars’ worth of national fisheries resources.
  • Reduce the cost of fish for sale to the public as market competition returns to the sector and stops corporate quota owners from renting out the resource as if they are the owners
  • Reduce the price of quota, allowing smaller operators in coastal towns to buy back quota and re-establish themselves. They would be able to “afford” to go fishing. That was the original intention of the Quota Management System.
  • Reduce the price pressure that results from the current corporate monopoly and the demands that drive illegal dumping.

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