Fisheries policy: The Labour Party

September 8, 2017

LegaSea asked the Labour Party to provide comment on their party’s fisheries policy. The Labour Party provided this statement.

Abundant, sustainable fisheries in a healthy marine environment 
Labour’s primary focus will be on ensuring that our fisheries are sustainable and abundant and that ocean habitats are protected from the impacts of terrestrial and marine activities. Our current fisheries system lacks transparency and accountability – it has too many confusing and conflicting laws, regulations and rules, and not enough clarity about how all those measures are supposed to be achieved.

Labour will: Set clear, scientifically justifiable targets for rebuilding fisheries to sustainable levels and standards for managing the impacts of fishing on the environment; enable and facilitate fisheries resource users to meet those targets and standards; and develop cost-  effective monitoring and auditing systems to ensure they are met.

Sedimentation and other adverse effects of land-based activities are damaging fisheries habitat, particularly for valuable inshore fisheries such as snapper, rock lobster and paua and also for aquaculture.

Labour will: Review the Resource Management Act to promote integrated management and protect fisheries habitats and aquaculture areas from the impacts of land-based activities.

Inshore fisheries are valued by customary, recreational and commercial fishers. Our focus will be on ensuring that abundant inshore fisheries meet the needs of all users. Where fisheries need to be rebuilt, all sectors should share responsibility for sustaining our fisheries and improving abundance.

Labour will: Expect all fishing sectors to share responsibility for improving the abundance of inshore fisheries.

It is unacceptable that we do not have accurate information on all catches from our fisheries. If we cannot measure what is taken, we cannot manage it effectively. Priorities for improvement include the accurate and verifiable reporting of all commercial harvest, including fish discarded at sea. Priorities also include more frequent use of existing recreational harvest survey methodologies and improvements through self-reporting with smartphone apps.

Labour will: Obtain accurate information on commercial fishing activity, making use of new technology while also considering and correcting the underlying incentives that drive misreporting and illegal discarding, and will work alongside industry to develop practical solutions to minimise discarding in multi-species fisheries.

Improving local recreational fishing
For many years governments have put recreational fishing in the ‘too hard’ basket, with the result that the interests of recreational fishers have been poorly served by fisheries management decisions. This situation has disadvantaged recreational fishing interests when decisions are made at both the national and regional levels. We will establish improved representation of all recreational fishing interests at the national level to government and the industry.

Improvements will also be made to the government working alongside existing fishing clubs and associations to advocate for finer-scale management of species that are highly valued by local recreational fishers (fishers in the Hauraki Gulf have different needs than those in Fiordland).  We will focus on recreational fishers working collectively with government, inshore commercial interests and other stakeholders to improve the recreational fishing experience while enhancing the sustainability of fish stocks.

Labour will: Work alongside the recreational fishing sector to design and implement improved representation of their concerns and priorities at both the national and regional levels and with the aim of improving the fishing experience for all New Zealanders now and for generations to come.

Collaboration and integration
The marine environment is subject to many competing uses and values, and Labour sees the way forward is through collaborative approaches and negotiated solutions for reconciling these different interests. While stakeholder collaborative groups have a good track record in New Zealand, to date they have operated in a somewhat ad hoc manner and – although they have the worthy aim of promoting more integrated decision making – their solutions have been implemented by special legislation which ends up making national-scale oceans management more complex. We want to build on the strengths of existing collaborative planning initiatives while reducing the costs of reaching negotiated solutions and achieving better integration with national-scale management regimes.

Labour will: Improve decision making, while retaining a diversity of solutions and outcomes to suit the range of issues that communities face.

Maori have rights and interests in all sectors of New Zealand’s fisheries – customary non- commercial, recreational and commercial – and also have responsibilities deriving from kaitiakitanga.
These rights and interests highlight the shared nature of many inshore fisheries and the importance of upholding the Treaty principles when making management trade-offs between fishing sectors.

Labour will: Work with Maori fisheries stakeholders to ensure that the full range of Maori rights and interests in fisheries and the marine environment are able to be exercised in an integrated manner, consistent with the obligations in the Maori Fisheries Settlement.

Enhancing the value of seafood exports
On a global scale, New Zealand is a small seafood producer. In order to get the best value from our seafood exports we need a greater focus on premium quality niche markets, particularly for inshore fisheries. To do this effectively, New Zealand needs an internationally credible programme to demonstrate the origin and credentials of our seafood exports. Consumers can then be confident that New Zealand’s fisheries are safe, healthy, sustainable and ethical. Two key elements of the programme are country of origin labelling (i.e., New Zealand branded seafood product with chain of custody to New Zealand fisheries and aquaculture) and a certification scheme in which fisheries are independently assessed against a national standard that complies with FAO requirements.

Labour will: Work with industry and other stakeholders to develop a national seafood branding and certification programme to add value to New Zealand’s seafood exports.

Aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing primary industry, but New Zealand’s aquaculture sector still faces regulatory uncertainty, lack of security, and inconsistent management approaches around the country.

Labour will: Facilitate the development of aquaculture within clear environmental standards.

Excellence in fisheries management
The Quota Management System (QMS) has overall served New Zealand well and has led the way towards fisheries management reform in several fishing nations. There is no suggestion that the QMS should be thrown out. The QMS has also provided the basis for the settlement of Maori fisheries claims. We recognize that quota rights under the QMS need to be respected.However, the 2016 inquiry by Michael Heron QC found serious failings by the Ministry of Primary Industries in their decision not to prosecute for fish dumping, their subsequent cover up of what has occurred and misrepresentations to their Minister, journalists and the public. Public confidence in the nation of the QMS and MPI’s oversight of it has been undermined. Industry control of electronic monitoring has added to controversy, as did the catch reconstruction report from the Universities of Oxford, Auckland and Vancouver which asserted widespread under or misreporting of catch.

The fisheries management capability of the Ministry for Primary Industries has declined in recent years. We see that every day in the lack of strategic planning for fisheries, the long list of promises that are never delivered (e.g., fisheries management system review), the slow pace of operational decision making, the scarcity of dedicated fisheries officers and observers, and the numerous media reports of government and industry failures. Labour will reverse that trend. There is a need for a dedicated, focused team of specialists who are committed to improving the management of our fisheries, including through targeted legislative reform and building strong relationships with iwi and hapū, recreational and commercial fishing representatives, the environmental sector and local councils and communities.

Labour will:

  • Consider whether we should revert to a separate fisheries agency
  • Address ways to improving our knowledge of the impact of fishing on fish stocks, while considering overseas experiences and the incentives which result
  • Institute an independent review of the performance of both MPI and the Quota Management System
  • Support the rehabilitation of the Kaikoura and environs paua habitat and work with all parties to ensure local and neighbouring resources are sustained
  • Labour will implement digital reporting and monitoring systems that are cost effective, fit for purpose, and provide real fisheries management benefits – if necessary, we will defer the introduction of new systems until we are certain these objectives can be met.

More information
I Fish. I Care. I Vote – How does this policy compare to other party’s fisheries policies?
LegaSea’s Manifesto – See how this policy compares to our five policy planks.