Sustaining our New Zealand seafood resource

Sustaining our seafood resource means fishing and fish-farming so that there will be fish for tomorrow and into the future. So New Zealand seafood industry members have adopted a 'fish to fish another day' approach.

Independent international sustainability research

In July 2009 Dr Boris Worm and Prof Ray Hilborn, along with 19 marine and ecosystem scientists from around the world, released the results of their groundbreaking research and assessment of many of the world's fisheries. 

While the news wasn't all good for global fisheries, the New Zealand fisheries assessed (such as hoki) received the highest possible rating for ecologically sustainable management.   In their media release, Prof Hilborn said that it was good news for several regions in the U.S., Iceland and New Zealand.

"These highly managed ecosystems are improving," he said.

According to the authors' analysis, Alaska and New Zealand have led the world in terms of management success by not waiting until drastic measures are needed to conserve, restore and rebuild marine resources.

The research shows that New Zealand is an area where eco-systems have never been overfished and are effectively managed for ecological sustainability.

New Zealand seafood industry sustainability research

The New Zealand seafood industry commitment to sustaining New Zealand’s seafood resource is ongoing. We invest up to $20 million every year in research so that we know how best to:

  • harvest seafood in an environmentally sustainable way
  • minimise the impact of fishing and aquaculture on our natural environment.

We harvest seafood in an environmentally sustainable way

The New Zealand seafood industry leads the World in harvesting seafood in an environmentally sustainable way.

  • New Zealand's comprehensive fisheries management and control regimes (including our quota management system) are strictly monitored and enforced.
  • Our fishing companies make it their business to be sure that 'fish catch' quotas are set so that fish stocks can replenish.
  • We've adjusted fish- limits and catching seasons — because our research showed us that this would result in more sustainable fish stock levels, as well as better quality fish to meet consumer demand.
We minimise the impact of fishing and aquaculture on our natural environment

The New Zealand seafood industry plays an important part in managing marine resources and protecting New Zealand’s marine environment. This means fishing in a way that actively minimises the cost to the natural environment.

We harvest only the fish we set out to catch

Our research has led us to new technology and techniques to help us target and harvest only the fish we set out to catch.

Marine conservation in action

The New Zealand seafood industry is committed to guidelines and codes of practice that make sure that the fishing industry helps to conserve the marine environment. These guidelines help to prevent damage to the marine food chain, guard against marine pollution, and prevent the spread of foreign marine species in New Zealand waters.

Protection for marine and non-fish species that live at the bottom of the sea (benthic species)

New Zealand deepwater fishing companies have joined together to propose that bottom trawling is permanently banned from over 1.2 million square kilometres of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone — that’s absolute protection for over a third of New Zealand’s deepwater seabed.

Protection for sea mammals

South Island inshore fishermen have voluntarily closed an area popular with Hector’s dolphins to commercial fishing. At the same time, inshore set-netters are testing and using devices designed to deter Hector’s dolphins from fishing nets. North Island inshore fishermen are currently proposing area closures, gear restrictions, and other measures to protect Maui’s dolphins in a similar way. Other dolphin species benefit from the code of practice adopted by trawl fishermen to reduce by-catch.

Sea Lions are protected in the sub-Antarctic squid fishery by the use of Sea Lion Excluder Devices (SLEDs) that dramatically reduce the catch of New Zealand sea lions in the fishery.

Fur seal populations in New Zealand appear to be increasing rapidly. While some fur seals do suffer from encounters with fishing gear, the hoki fishery has introduced codes of practice to reduce seal by-catch.

Protection for seabirds

Our skippers have won national and international acclaim for their seabird-smart work! Codes of practice and award-winning mitigation devices have already substantially reduced seabird by-catch in parts of the fishing fleet — and we’re still working (with government and conservation groups) to make sure that this applies right across the fleet.

New Zealand fishermen work with government, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and other environmental interests through the ground-breaking Southern Seabird Solutions Alliance. This alliance provides southern hemisphere nations with help and encouragement to adopt seabird-smart fishing techniques and codes of practice.

Care for the marine environment

The New Zealand hoki fishery is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified. MSC is an international organisation that has developed an environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. Just look for the MSC fish logo on the packaging and you can be sure that the product you’re buying has not contributed to the environmental problem of overfishing.

The New Zealand aquaculture industry funds and manages extensive water quality and marine bio-toxin monitoring schemes throughout New Zealand.

The New Zealand Mussel Industry Council has introduced a World-leading environmental code of practice to promote sustainable and environmentally responsible mussel farming. Environmental scientists at America’s Blue Ocean Institute rank Greenshell™ mussels as the most ocean-friendly seafood in the World — Greenshell™ mussels score 3.45 out of 4 in its Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood.

New Zealand's role in international and regional marine conservation

New Zealand plays an important role in creating international and regional marine conservation agreements including:

  • the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
  • the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Agreement
  • the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Southern Bluefin Tuna.

New Zealand is working towards other regional fisheries management agreements between nations that have interests in the Indian, Pacific, and Southern Oceans, and Tasman Sea.