Sustainable harvest means finding the balance between what we’d like now, and leaving enough in the water to grow and breed for the future.
New Zealand sets targets for fish stock size, and limits below which we do not want to go. These are our performance standards for sustainability.
Catch limits are set that will keep fish stocks close to these target levels. The Minister of Fisheries sets these limits, and also decides how to allocate the catch between commercial and non-commercial sectors. In doing this, the Minister listens to the advice of fisheries scientists and managers, as well as what the public and stakeholders want.
New Zealand law requires the Minister of Fisheries to err on the side of caution when setting catch limits, particularly where we do not have a lot of information.
Managing the environment
The health of fisheries depends not only on how much we catch each year but also on the health of their environment. Other species, too, depend on this environment.
The combined effects of bottom fishing and land runoff over many years have significantly damaged some of our inshore fisheries and ecosystems. We have already closed some areas to bottom fishing, because of potential damage to fisheries. And in some places where land-based effects are a particular issue, community and local government groups have begun fencing and planting waterways to protect harbours from sediment runoff.
Now we are working to stop any further damage and slowly rebuild what we have lost.
An important first step in this is to protect special and representative inshore habitats. This will be done using a combination of marine reserves and fishing restrictions. These Marine Protected Areas will eventually cover at least 10 percent of New Zealand inshore waters.
However, we may need to do more, particularly where habitats are important nursery grounds or are vital to the wider ecosystem.
Where fishing threatens protected species like seabirds or marine mammals, we have put in controls to govern where and how people may fish.
By doing all of this, we will ensure that New Zealand waters remain in a suitable state for future generations.