What does “world-leading” mean?

January 18, 2017
“New Zealand has a world-leading quota management system”. A line the people of New Zealand hear all too often. Usually in response to a cry from the public about how something has gone amiss in our fisheries. But let’s stop and think about this. Firstly, for arguments sake, let’s say we are “world leading”. Why is that an appropriate response to a problem? If this is the case, maybe we should give the All Blacks a call and tell them to stop training, they are world leading after all.
“Plate size” NZ snapper. Sydney market. May 2017.
If we are world leading that doesn’t mean we can’t get better. If the public can still see a problem in our fisheries, then we need to keep working to manage them better. We can’t give up and rest on our laurels just because we are better than some others. There are a raft of problems, with more popping up almost by the day. Even MPI themselves have been caught admitting there are serious issues with our current system, comparing ourselves to others is not a reason to sweep those under the rug. We need an independent inquiry into our QMS so we can identify where these problems are and work together to fix them, simply claiming that there are the same problems elsewhere, and theirs are worse, doesn’t fix ours. Are we really world leading? New Zealand was lucky in the fact that commercial fishing has not been operating as long here as it has overseas. This has meant we can limit industrial scale pressure before it is too late. Many fisheries around the world have collapsed entirely, this has put more pressure on those countries to create stricter rules and work harder to rebuild. We seem to be following the same path downhill, we may be behind them, but some of our fisheries are depleting fast. We have been lucky enough that we are able to learn from others’ mistakes, we need to ensure we don’t repeat them. New Zealand may be in a better place than most of them, but some fisheries in the US, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and parts of Europe are recovering at a much faster rate than us, We already have a world-class system of measuring recreational harvest. The missing pieces are solutions to the QMS that encourages fish dumping, rips the heart out of our coastal communities, and sees planeloads of our coastal fish disappearing over the horizon for a $2.70 per kilo return while Kiwis are forking out $20. If New Zealand wants to live up to the hype of being a world leader, then there is work to be done and we need to start now.