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Sustainable Seafood Now™

Sustainable Seafood Now™ is a brand highlighting what is happening in the world’s fisheries, while advocating for a sustainable fishing industry both in New Zealand and worldwide.

The goal of this brand is to raise public awareness in New Zealand about the current state of fisheries and the need to implement better systems for managing this resource.

Fisheries in New Zealand

New Zealand’s marine environment is extremely diverse, with over 17,000 known species being recorded. Aotearoa New Zealand manages its fisheries through the Quota Management System (QMS). Introduced in 1986, it provides for a yearly catch limit (the ‘total allowable catch’) for every fish stock. An allowance is made for recreational and customary fishing, and the remainder of the total allowable catch is divided up amongst commercial fishing entities.

The QMS has often been heralded as world leading and a great example of sustainable fisheries management. Whether the current policy settings mean that the state of Aotearoa’s fishing sector is sustainable is a question that is increasingly being raised, with a recent investigation finding that we do not routinely report on the ecosystem impacts of fishing. Data shows that 82% of the 159 scientifically evaluated fish stock in 2020 are above the soft limit – and are therefore deemed to have ‘no sustainability risks’. The soft limit is 20% of the original biomass of a given species. This low threshold and the robustness of MPI’s data capture raises many concerns for the long term sustainability and health of our marine life.

Environmental groups have been calling for compulsory cameras on commercial fishing boats for years. Numerous reports and investigations have demonstrated that illegal dumping, bycatch and bottom trawling are occurring without prosecution from MPI. Regulations for on-board cameras on commercial fishing vessels came into effect in 2018, but there is currently a holding date of 1 October 2021 before they will apply to most commercial fishing vehicles.

The Government has committed to taking an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management that integrates sustainable harvesting with wider biodiversity considerations. Digital monitoring, including on-board cameras, will be an important part of this approach. The appointment of a Minister for Oceans and Fisheries in 2020 indicates the Government’s awareness of the issues facing our marine environment.

Fisheries New Zealand and MPI have established two science groups to address effects of fishing on the aquatic environment and biodiversity in Aotearoa.

Climate change threatens the stability of our oceans and fishing through issues such as warming seas, ocean acidification and changing weather patterns. The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor sees climate change as a potential catalyst for refining Aotearoa’s fisheries management into a more responsive instrument, nimble in its response to expected and unexpected changes. Fisheries New Zealand has four fisheries-related projects on climate change underway to address this.

What can you do to help?

Make informed choices when buying seafood in supermarkets and when ordering at a restaurant. A New Zealand based Best Fish Guide is available.

Use your voice! Vote, volunteer with an organisation or write a letter to your MP!

OSOF has a range of volunteer roles that are available, or you can help with local events, check out some of our roles or contact us.

External Educational Resource

Fish4all – Fish4all is a recreational fishing reporting mobile app designed for your smartphone to capture better information on recreational fishing activity.

Further Reading and Resources

Fisheries Act 1996

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