An independent review of New Zealand’s fisheries sector undertaken in 2008 by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that New Zealand fisheries management is amongst the world’s best. However the report also identified that there remain some significant challenges that will need to be tackled if the considerable potential for economic, cultural, social and environmental value from New Zealand’s fisheries resources is to be fully realised.
The PWC report found that an increased focus on the sustainable management of fisheries, including their environmental impacts, has developed in recent years. This parallels an increased global focus on environmental issues in the aquatic domain and pressure from a New Zealand public with strong interests in the aquatic environment.
Environmental considerations in fisheries management in New Zealand are also based on the principles of the Fisheries
Act and related environmental legislation that require fisheries management to take account of the wider ecosystem
within which fisheries exist.
The challenge is to identify the environmental effects that are adverse, in the sense that they pose unacceptable risks to
the sustainability of stocks or marine ecosystems. Most fisheries stakeholders do not believe that we should seek to
minimise or avoid all effects. It is not possible to utilise fisheries and simultaneously maintain all aquatic environments in pristine condition. On the other hand, environmental groups and many of the public are concerned about the impacts of fishing on the aquatic ecosystem.
There are significant issues with regard to the impacts of land-based activities and climate change on fisheries. The
current fisheries management system provides levers to control allowable take in order to manage stocks. In fact, some
fisheries may be more heavily impacted by a factor such as land-based sediment run-off into breeding estuaries, an issue that the fisheries sector cannot presently control. The coordination and integration of the resource management
frameworks for coastal land management and fisheries management should be improved.
There are natural tensions between environmental groups with an interest in aquatic environmental issues and those with
harvesting rights. The former struggle to adequately resource their engagement and advocacy across the diverse range
of sector groups and decision-makers. The latter would argue that greater trust should be placed in them to manage
catch and catch methods with long-term sustainability in mind.