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Our Place in the World


Management of NZ's international fishing interests 

This page outlines New Zealand’s involvement in managing fisheries sustainably beyond our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the work we do to maximise our trade opportunities.

NZ Fishing Interests - Key Facts

  • The New Zealand seafood industry is increasingly expanding its activities beyond the limits of the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • New Zealand vessels fish throughout the world, both on the high seas and in the zones of other countries.
  • Our fishing companies are involved in many joint venture arrangements around the world.
  • Seafood exports account for 90 percent of New Zealand seafood industry revenue and consistently rank as New Zealand’s fourth or fifth largest export earner.

NZ International Objectives

The Ministry of Fisheries’ international fisheries objective is to “maximise the value to New Zealand from the sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources beyond the New Zealand EEZ”. More specifically, we seek to ensure fisheries and the environmental impacts of fishing are managed sustainably beyond the New Zealand EEZ; and to maximise economic opportunities for New Zealand in respect of fisheries beyond the EEZ.

International Treaties

Fishing on the high seas is governed through international treaties agreed between States. New Zealand has signed up to many of these treaties, and as a result, has a range of international obligations that are incorporated into New Zealand law. The two main treaties are:
The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

This is the primary international legal instrument governing high seas fishing (among other things). It sets out a framework of rights, obligations and duties with respect to high seas fishing – most importantly, the freedom to fish on the high seas, balanced with the responsibility for a State to control the activities of its nationals and vessels.

The 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA)

This builds on UNCLOS provisions, and sets out the framework for cooperation with other countries to conserve and manage highly migratory fish stocks such as tuna and stocks that straddle both the high seas and a state's EEZ. New Zealand’s obligations in respect of these instruments are set out in Part 6A of the Fisheries Act.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

Within the broad framework of UNCLOS and UNFSA, specific areas of ocean, or in some cases specific fisheries, are managed through regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) or agreements. New Zealand is a member of four RFMOs –

  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) 
  • Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna
  • Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission
  • South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO), managing waters from Western Australia to South America, including the Tasman Sea and South Pacific Ocean

Each RFMO is established through a legally binding Convention. New Zealand meets annually with other member States to negotiate access to fisheries for New Zealand vessels and agree specific measures to conserve and manage the fisheries and their associated ecosystems. These measures are then incorporated into New Zealand laws and become legally binding on New Zealand vessels, companies and nationals.

Regional Fisheries Management Organisations

International Organisations NZ works with

Improving institutional frameworks and arrangements for the governance and management of high seas fisheries is critical for the future of those fisheries. Lack of effective governance results in problems such as overfishing, illegal fishing and overcapacity (or too many vessels to fish too few fish).

New Zealand works on these issues with other states through multilateral organisations like the:

  • United Nations
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
  • World Trade Organisation to liberalise the trading environment
  • Convention on Biological Diversity and Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species to pursue New Zealand’s broader sustainability and environmental objectives.
  • Forum Fisheries Agency in the Pacific and APEC to improve governance and management of high seas fisheries.

New Zealand also has strong bilateral relationships with many countries, particularly those in the Pacific region.

Current Issues

Important international issues that the Ministry of Fisheries is currently focussed on include: 

  • improving international governance of fisheries resources;
  • addressing illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing;
  • addressing the adverse impacts of fishing on the marine environment;
  • development of a new regional fisheries management organisation in the South Pacific; and
  • strengthening institutional capacity in fisheries agencies of developing Pacific Island countries.

Contact us about this page    Last updated 26/01/2017