Fishing Industry Pushes For Self-regulation

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, May 24th, 2010 - 30 comments
Categories: Conservation, food, privatisation - Tags:

In a move that can only be described as the fox guarding the hen house, the fishing industry has released plans for self-regulation. At this years Seafood Industry Council (NZSIC) conference the new plan is being called “Managing Our Own Ship“.

A “conservative estimate” from NZSIC said the strategy could increase the quota value of the industry by $2.5 billion. We all know how much the National government loves the old money carrot on the stick approach but hopefully they have enough sense not to welcome this new plan with open arms. Going by National’s ideology driven approach though I don’t have a lot of hope. Let’s repeat the National mantra: “What’s good for the economy is good for New Zealand. What’s good for the economy is good for New Zealand. What’s good for the economy is good for New Zealand” ad infinitum.

The “Managing Our Own Ship” plan includes proposals to harvest species and fishing areas in line with when world markets will give the best price, such as when there are shortages in supply from other countries or national holidays when a lot of seafood is consumed. The odd thing however, is that the seafood industry has been doing this for at least the last 20 years, so what is “Managing Our Own Ship” really all about?

Further into the plan we see proposals such as the industry taking control of research into whether quotas are sustainable and regulating the impact the industry has on seabirds. The official word from NZSIC is “Industry can do it more efficiently and we want to look after our own business. We want the benefits and we should be the ones to put in the investment to get the benefits and rewards.”

But should we trust the New Zealand fishing industry to manage itself? The NZSIC run website ‘The Greatest Meal on Earth‘ states that “New Zealand is an area where eco-systems have never been overfished and are effectively managed for ecological sustainability”. However the Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) website sings a slightly different tune: it talks about how orange roughy stocks effectively collapsed in the late 80s. And orange roughy stocks are currently estimated to be between 13-30% of their original biomass, an amazing statistic for a species that has “never been overfished“. As well as this the Challenger (ORH7A) orange roughy fishery has been effectively closed since 2000 and the MoF website states, “Of our 11 roughy stocks, scientists think six are probably near or above the government’s target level.”

NZSIC also says that Hoki “is not and has never been over-fished“. This is despite the fact that the total allowable catch was slashed by MoF from a high of 250,000 tonnes in 2000 to 90,000 tonnes in 2007 Those are huge cuts for a fishery that has never been overfished.

Another point against self-regulation is a 2009 paper released in the journal Marine Policy that found “unobserved vessels’ reported catches were significantly different to observed vessels’ catches. There was clear evidence of misreporting in the hoki fishery”. I imagine if the fishing industry was self-regulated information like this would never even come to light.

It is clear that the fishing industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself anymore than any other business sector. There is little doubt that self-regulation will be more profitable in economic terms for the businesses involved but it will be at a huge cost to the ecosystems that they derive their income from. National would be making a huge mistake to hand over more power to the fishing industry and in the end it would be the people who would have to deal with the consequences.

30 comments on “Fishing Industry Pushes For Self-regulation”

  1. I wonder if there will an equivalent proposal to fish marine reserves in the same way that the Government wish to mine the conservation estate.

    After all I am sure the industry would argue that a bit of “surgical” fishing would not hurt, it will only be a “post card” sized change and modern fishing practices are so much better.

    And self regulation? We have essentially this happening in the financial markets and look at what has happened there.

  2. Bored 2

    Oh dear, what a fiasco this will be, asking the bank robbers to guard the safe. If anything more were needed to persuade us of the larcenous relationship between the backers of the National party and a government giving access to the public domain and this will be it.

    Peak oil we have, climate charge we have, peak soil we have, and now peak bloody fish. Anybody for a slice of crumbed NZSIC, or perhaps deep-fried Brownlee? Didn’t think so, pretty unappetising or sickening.

  3. Lew 3

    fox guarding the hen house

    … or you might say, “taniwha guarding the hÄ«naki” 😉


  4. vto 4

    This proposal imo is of far greater risk to the environment than any schedule 4 mining proposals. But it seems to be sneaking through quietly.

    Q. Can the fishing industry be trusted?????????

    A. No. (and it aint to do with the nature of fishermen it is do with the nature of men)

    This is just like the buildilng industry when the rules and regs were changed in the early 90’s and look where that led.

    • Bill 4.1

      “No. (and it aint to do with the nature of fishermen it is do with the nature of men)”

      I’d beg to differ and suggest that it’s to do with the nature of the market and the behaviours it’s demands impose on men and women.

      When there has been self regulation without over arching market demands twisting everything out of shape ( as in many pre colonial societies), mis management wasn’t a given, although it did happen. Deliberate and cynical mis management of the type encouraged and rewarded by market mechanisms definitely wasn’t prevalent. But in society after society we see that destructive cynicism sneak in and establish itself as the norm when the market comes to town. eg logging operations in the Pacific.

      So, yeah. No. It ain’t human nature. It’s human behaviour being shaped and moulded by the nature of the market.

  5. Bunji 5

    Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Phil cHeatley, back from his gardening leave after his credit card “mistakes” is all for this:
    “We’re interested in outcomes, what you do out on the water on your boats is your business”

    Personally I’m very interested in what they do out on the water – I want there to be fish for my children’s supper, not just mine…

    Does anyone remember when the last National government let an industry set its own standards? Something about leaky homes…

    The fishing industry may not just allow themselves a bit more unreported by-catch that ends up collapsing fishing stocks, they’ll also definitely use this to screw more out of the (probably foreign) workers. More and more fish is being processed out on the boats by minimum wage foreign workers. The fishing industry is asking to be allowed to pay them below minimum wage as well – something they think they’ll be able to get away with as they’re not in New Zealand proper.

    All this costs NZ workers jobs – witness the hundreds who’ve been laid off in Nelson, and there’ll be a lot more to come. Which is why the SFWU have a petition organised, calling for a fishing industry inquiry.

    I’m not sure how getting more kiwis on the dole is meant to solve the wage gap with Australia, but that seems to be National’s plan.

    • Croc 5.1

      Thanks for the article Bunji.

      This potentially has very serious consequences for the legitimacy of the observer programme…

    • prism 5.2

      And what about making sure that boats don’t paint toxic anti fouling on their keels. It is so showing a lack of political desire to run best practice systems or whatever the current jargon is. No, just let them get on with it they know what they are doing but remember that being so great means never having to say you’re sorry.

  6. Bill 6

    Notice how self management…a tenet of democracy… becomes a poison under the auspices of market mechanisms that demand everything be turned into financial profit?

    edit before the jump up and down squad arrive, I’m aware that it’s not really self management that the fisheries are proposing insofar as the companies are everything but democratic. But my point stands nevertheless.

  7. prism 7

    I seem to remember the news in pre-quota years that some NZ fishing company boats were taking guns along to protect catch from other companies’ boats. And I think they cut nets. These are not the people to be in charge of this valuable resource.

    As it is, as soon as the quota system came in, small boat owners with a little quota were encouraged to sell it, and the big boys amalgamated them to make a large holding. Now those that are left say they are finding it hard to make a living.

    Allowing for a bit of talking up of difficulties, or personal inefficiency, there is no call to let sector leaders control their own bit of country pie. That’s for the country to do. That’s how it should, and must be, or we will suffer from the greed and game playing that these captains of industry and their people indulge in.

    • Croc 7.1

      The guns were sometime for protection, but mostly for shooting birds/seals and sea lions in an effort to cull “competition species.”

      The industry has changed a lot for the better since those days, but they still should NEVER be self regulated.

      • prism 7.1.1

        Thanks Croc for that. Though I thought that protection of nets and catch was also a factor with the guns. I think there was some deliberate fouling of net lines etc. But I just read about it, don’t know anything personally.

        I see you don’t think the fishing interests should be self regulating. We can’t place too much credence on their scientific advisors either. The cod fishery quota in the Northern hemisphere was allocated one year when stocks were low, because things looked better than previous year/s but it wasn’t sustainable and soon the whole fishery collapsed.

        The smart, knowledgable, confident men who knew the industry thoroughly were shown to be fools, ready to risk the fish stock probably because of unaffordable over-investment, and that makes a fool a dangerous one.

  8. Draco T Bastard 8

    If the fishing industry was self-regulated we would, very rapidly, have no fish. Self-regulation doesn’t work as some people have a tendency to lie for their own benefit.

    • prism 8.1

      DtB There was an interesting discussion about the industry by some knowledgable fishing person fairly recently. Probably heard it on RadioNz – did you hear it?

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1

        Nope. What did he say?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Un;ess you were talking about this one:
          The Great New Zealand Fishing Scandal
          A film by Guye Henderson.

          • Croc

            I’ve only seen parts of this documentary but the parts I have seen were terrible.

            A lot of the ‘facts’ presented are ten years out of date or simply untrue. Not to mention that Peter Talley funded a big portion of it which makes you ask questions about the angle it was taking.

            • Pepeketua

              Ah yes, Peter Talley – that bastion of marine stewardship…
              This after he gave a talk to Motueka high school in 2007.

              “Talley’s Fisheries managing director Peter Talley says he is pro-whaling, pro-genetic engineering, anti-animal rights, anti-MMP and sceptical about global warming.

              Talley made his controversial views known in a speech to 200 high school students at a leadership forum organised by Motueka High School and held at Seifried Estate.

              Answering questions from the students, Talley said the Japanese should be allowed to hunt whales because they were doing it sustainably.

              He also said seals should not be protected because they catch more fish than inshore fishermen, in particular hoki and cod.Humans should have more rights than seals which were a “very destructive animal”.

              When a student asked why humans had more rights to fish than seals, Talley answered: “I don’t believe in animal rights.I want to kill and eat them.”

              Talley said money could be made from seals as each one was worth $600 for the omega-3 oils in them.He did not suggest they should be hunted commercially.

              Talley’s views have been dismissed as laughable by environmentalists.

              Greenpeace campaign manager Carmen Gravatt added: “Mr Talley forgot to mention that pigs can fly and the earth is flat.”

              Talley said New Zealand had a fantastic and sustainable fisheries management system.The country’s isolation and exclusive access to waters was benefiting it, he said.

              “Fishing is New Zealand’s fourth largest industry but greenies don’t want it.”

              Talley said the animal rights movement was urban-based and unfairly targeted farmers and meat producers.Graffiti artists were no longer tagging “Ban the bomb” but “Meat is murder”, he said.

              Talley told the students the organic food movement was riddled with fraud.British supermarket Tesco had removed all its organic produce from its shelves for a period because so much of was not actually organic.He said 70 per cent of beef had growth hormones in it and every time people ate chicken they were getting an overdose of antibiotics.

              He was pro-genetic engineering for this reason and because it cut the need to use pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics. “

  9. pepeketua 9

    agreed that this is possibly the highest risk to our biodiversity after the schedule four proposals… (or even perhaps higher – since there appears to be a huge opportunity for public input in those at least).

    Let me just say that with the benefit of having worked with the fishing industry, as well as the Ministry in charge of these guys, i can tell you that the ‘self management’ principles would be a disaster.

    Already many NZ fishermen ‘highgrade’ their own catch. (whereby you might pull in ten tonnes of fish, two of which are of suitable size for market, so you dump the rest, usually dead, until you catch up to your ten tonnes of fish). An outgoing Fisheries minister once remarked that he found it astounding that the only boats bringing back fish of different sizes on board were those with observers on board (which is usually less than 3% of all boats, depending on the fishery).

    No bycatch of dolphins/seals/sea lions/penguins/albatross etc are reported in the 97% of boats not observed, yet somehow, remarkably, in observed fisheries bycatch occurs. then the government does its best to hide it… see

    The Fishing industry (SEAFIC) are extremely litigious and will sue any challenges they see to getting to ‘their’ fish. As such MFish are scared of them, and DOC are scared of Mfish.

    This suggestion by the fishing industry is appalling, and pressure must be put on Phil Heatley ( to stop it from going ahead.

    although watching what the govt are doing re: ECAN, Mackenzie Basin, Mining, Aquaculture, and now fisheries…. i’m not sure i’d hold my breath.

    Happy international year of biodiversity NZ – home of the world’s most endangered dolphin, sea lion and penguin. excellent stuff.

    • prism 9.1

      You are saying much of what I remember from the doco on fishing that I heard.
      It bothered me more than somewhat to hear what is happening. Also I remember the fuss about the shrimps or linguini or something where there appeared to be bias in the way that Fisheries administered the regs and allocated the quota.

      It seems that there is too much of what economists call moral hazard, the desire to rort the system if the opportunity is available. And from the way the story went on the doco, some fishermen are so disadvantaged by the regns that they have to manipulate the declared catch because of rigid, impractical catch type demands, with large fines on other species. Mad I thought.

      Dreamed up by a theoretical boffin who has never laid his mortgaged house on the line to go out commercial fishing I thought?

    • ak 9.2

      Spot on Pepe, they wouldn’t have a clue on half of what goes on at sea – and through the back doors of restaurants and hotels. For the minister to say “what you do out on the water on your boats is your business’ has got to be the irresponsible statement of the century. (heh, love “surgical fishing” Micky “hand me a scampi nurse”)

  10. jimmy 10

    Goodbye fish pie

  11. tc 11

    Be afraid people as already said the foxes want care of the chicken coop.
    The better run fishing companies do OK (tough when the Xchg rates high and constant competition from asian fish farms and countries who plunder their seas) as they catch what sells into niche markets they carefully develop and cultivate constantly tweaking and altering their species mix with an eye on quota restrictions.
    Then there’s the big fishing interests…… no clear strategy of maximum return for actual fishermen with livelihoods and capital invested so go out and catch anything in sight and process it or let the russians drag the seafloor with their floating factories on your behalf…..those job losses in nelson are the result….no vision/plan/strategy and a way too unreactive and complex a business model.

    I bet the big boys are behind this (AFL/sanfords and surprise surprise talleys), the niche players are agile and understand the customers and their evolving markets…..we are at the bottom end of the world, it’s a highly perishable product and yet another natural resource we must protect.

    Quota’s far from perfect and quite subjective but at least it’s an attempt to sustain fish stocks and those struggling are the big boys who are as agile as an oil tanker… hoo.

    • Croc 11.1

      TC, unfortunately it sounds like you are repeating something you heard in the pub, ie some of what you are saying is half true but there is little understanding of what actually happened.

      go out and catch anything in sight and process it or let the russians drag the seafloor with their floating factories on your behalf ..those job losses in nelson are the result .no vision/plan/strategy and a way too unreactive and complex a business model.

      This really shows you have little idea of what you are talking about. The majority of fish processed by Sealords in the Nelson factory were Hoki caught in the Cook Strait by the kiwi vessel Taimania, as well as smaller amounts of hoki, squid and jack mackerel caught by Russian JV vessels.

      It was decided that it would be cheaper to buy a factory vessel and process at sea than bring fish back to Nelson to process as factory vessels produce a much higher grade of product because fish are processed almost immediately after being caught, rather than sitting in ice for a couple of days. Hoki is especially bad for this as it has such a soft flesh.

      Many of those who lost their jobs in the Nelson factory and by the decommissioning of Taimania were offered positions on the new factory vessel Independent 1, although many people still lost their jobs. The Russian JV vessels are still catching the same jack mackerel and squid which as far as I understand is still being processed in the Sealords Nelson factory, so those Russian boats are actually responsible for a few jobs being kept.

      Pretty much every fishing vessel above 30m has a factory on board and processes at sea, that go’s for Kiwi boats as well as foreign vessels.

      I bet the big boys are behind this

      No need to state the obvious. Of course the big boys are behind this, the ‘Managing Our Own Ship” was from the recent NZSIC conference, an organisation that represents commercial fishers.

      I think you’ll find that those fishers struggling are the small companies and self employed fishers who have no option but to sell their fish at the prices the big companies set.

      [lprent: Must have a look to see why you always wind up in spam. ]

  12. Pepeketua 12

    For some great stuff from Steve Logan, at least trying to choose sustainable fish for his business, and why that’s important to him – see here—The-man-behind-the-eponomous-Logan-B/Choosing-a-Good-Fish.aspx (also see spin from Lauraine Jacobs on NZ’s ‘sustainable’ fishery).

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