Fishing industry in New Zealand

Fishing industry in New Zealand
Sea floor map around New Zealand.

As with other countries, New Zealand’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone gives its fishing industry special fishing rights.[1] It covers 4.1 million square kilometres. This is the sixth largest zone in the world, and is fourteen times the land area of New Zealand itself.[2][3]

The zone has a rich and unusually complex underwater topography. Over 15,000 marine species are known to live there, about ten percent of the world's diversity. Many of these are migratory species, but New Zealand's isolation means also that many of the marine species are unique to New Zealand.[4]



New Zealand's wild fisheries captured 441,000 tonnes and earned over NZ$1 billion in exports in the fishing year 2006/07. The aquaculture of mussels, salmon and oysters earned another $226 million. This made seafood the country’s fifth largest export earner.[5]

There are about two tonnes of fish in the New Zealand fisheries for every New Zealander. Just under ten percent of this stock is harvested each year.[6] In the fishing year 2006/07, there were 1,316 commercial fishing vessels and 229 processors and licensed fish receivers, employing 7,155 people.[5] About 1.2 million or 31 percent of New Zealanders engage, at least occasionally, in recreational fishing with an annual recreational take of about 25,000 tonnes.[5]

Historical development

Traditionally New Zealand's fishing industry was an inshore one largely confined to the domestic market. From 1938 to 1963, there was a licensing system operating, involving gear and area controls.[7] Starting in the 1960s, the offshore waters, outside the then 12 nautical mile territorial sea, were exploited by Japanese, Taiwanese, South Korean, and Soviet trawlers.[8]

In 1977 the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone was established. These zones were established because countries wanted protection from foreign fishing vessels. Because New Zealand’s territory includes the Chatham Islands and other outer islands, its EEZ is 4.1 million square kilometres, the sixth largest fishing zone in the world.

This was a huge resource, and expectations were high. The inshore fisheries had become over exploited, and the search was on for new offshore fisheries. New Zealand companies embarked on joint ventures with foreign companies. Trawling crews from other nations taught New Zealanders how to fish deep waters and in return got a share of the catch.[9]

Deep-water trawling is highly mechanised and massive capital investment is normally required to operate modern factory trawlers. These ships process everything caught on board. Even the guts and heads are processed into fishmeal, which is so valuable it is known as "brown gold". Elsewhere, major fisheries, such the northern hemisphere cod fisheries, were collapsing. Fishing companies in New Zealand were able to buy or lease the redundant trawlers cheaply. At the same time, the collapse of northern fisheries resulted in an unmet need in the world market for quality whitefish. Hoki and orange roughy from New Zealand were in demand.[9]

In 1986 New Zealand became the first country to introduce a property-rights based Quota Management System (QMS) system.[10][11] There are currently (2008) 129 species which are targeted commercially. There are about 60 species groups with a QMS allowance for customary Māori fishers, with a similar number for recreational fishers. The fisheries are managed through the Fisheries Act 1996, which sets out the rules and regulations and the QMS administered by the Ministry of Fisheries.[12]

The fishery in the 2000s

By 2000, the industry had developed from being a domestic supplier to exporting over 90 percent of the fish harvest.[8]

Fishing grounds

New Zealand is surrounded by an unusually complex underwater typography

Coastal estuaries dot New Zealand's 15,000 km coastline. Coastal fisheries have access to a large continental shelf, and further afield are large continental rises. Together these relatively shallow fishing grounds occupy about thirty percent of the area of the EEZ. Yet further out in the deep ocean lie undersea mountain ranges and volcanoes, and deep oceanic trenches. The 10,000 metre deep Kermadec Trench is the second deepest trench on Earth.[4]

High seas fishing

The high seas are those areas of ocean that not covered by any country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. New Zealand has international obligations to ensure New Zealand flagged vessels are aligned with proper conservation and management of the high seas fisheries. These are met in Part 6A of the Fisheries Act 1996. These obligations come from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1995 Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement.[13]

Māori role

The Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, “undisturbed possession” of the fisheries until they chose to dispose of them to the Crown. They have been provided with a substantial stake in commercial fishing as part of the Treaty Settlement. After the quota management system was established, the government purchased back ten percent of the quota share and gave it to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission for the benefit of Māori. In 1992, the government allocated a cash settlement to Māori which they used to buy a half share of Sealord, the countries largest fishing company. In addition, the government has given Māori twenty percent of the commercial quota share of new species introduces to the quota management system, and the equivalent of twenty percent of all marine farming space created around New Zealand coasts and harbours. In 2004, Parliament approved the allocation of additional significant fisheries assets to iwi. Te Ohu Kai Moana is implementing this allocation. Māori have now built their commercial stake to the point where they control or influence more than thirty percent of the commercial fisheries.[14][15][16][17][18]


  • 1790s: Sealers and whalers arrive.
  • 1875: Seal hunting restricted to a short annual season.[19]
  • 1894: Protection of fur seal population due to declining numbers.
  • 1977: The "Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone Act" is passed.[20]
  • 1979: Marine Mammals Protection Act came into force.
  • 1983: Fisheries Act comes into force (establishes a fishing quota system).
  • 1986: Quota Management System (QMS) introduced to conserve fish stocks within the Exclusive Economic Zone.
  • 1989: Mäori Fisheries Act passed.
  • 1996: Fisheries Act 1996 is passed (though parts of it come into force only spasmodically over the next few years).
  • 2000: Moratorium on new marine farming applications, initially for two years.
  • 2003: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry for the Environment, and Fonterra sign the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord.[21]
  • 2004: Moratorium on marine farms lifted after the passing of the Aquaculture Reform Bill. [2]
  • 2005: First criminal conviction for killing a fur seal is handed down.
  • 2005: Thirty five squid boats ordered to return to port from their sub-Antarctic fishing grounds for breaking a voluntary code of practice designed to protect seabirds.[22][23]
  • 2006: The New Zealand fishing industry proposes limits on bottom trawling.
  • 2006: New Zealand Fisheries officers' request to be allowed to carry batons and pepper spray is denied.[24]
  • 2006: Great white sharks will be protected within New Zealand's EEZ from April 2007.[25]
  • 2007: Bottom trawling prohibited in selected areas.[26]
  • 2007: The orange roughy fishery is closed to allow stocks of the fish to recover.[27]

See also

  • Aquaculture in New Zealand
  • Agriculture in New Zealand


  1. ^ *United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - Part V
  2. ^ New Zealand’s marine area Ministry for the Environment.
  3. ^ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2007) Environmental Performance Review:New Zealand p. 207.
  4. ^ a b Fisheries and their ecosystems. NZ Ministry of Fisheries. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  5. ^ a b c New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries: NZ Fisheries at a Glance Retrieved 11 June 2008
  6. ^ Seafriends: Why is New Zealand so special?
  7. ^ Guerin, K. (2003). Property Rights and Environmental Policy: A New Zealand Perspective.Wellington, New Zealand: NZ Treasury
  8. ^ a b The New Zealand fishing industry
  9. ^ a b Carl Walrond. Fishing industry. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 21-Sep-2007
  10. ^ KELLY Lock, Kelly and Leslie, Stefan (2007) New Zealand's Quota Management System: A History of the First 20 Years. Motu Working Paper No 07-02.
  11. ^ Quota Management.
  12. ^ Status of New Zealand Fisheries
  13. ^ NZ Ministry of Fisheries: High seas fishing
  14. ^ Māori Fisheries
  15. ^ The New Zealand Fishing Industry
  16. ^ Providing Settlement Assets
  17. ^ Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement
  18. ^ Māori Development in Aquaculture
  19. ^ MfE State of Environment Report, 1997
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Clean Streams Accord
  22. ^ (Wikinews)
  23. ^ (Stuff)
  24. ^ "Fisheries officers angry they will not be armed". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 8 October 2006. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  25. ^ Beehive - Full protection for great white sharks from April 2007
  26. ^ Beehive - Groundbreaking initiative to protect underwater habitats
  27. ^ Beehive - NZ and Australia close orange roughy fishery

Further reading

External links

External media
EEZ map 1
EEZ map 2
Inshore Fishing RadioNZ documentary

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