Prior to 1965, New Zealand only controlled fishing within a 3-mile coastal limit. In 1965, a 9-mile fishing zone outside the 3-mile territorial zone was established. Many foreign fishing boats fished outside this 12-mile limit and New Zealand had no control over the fish taken from these waters. During these times, the New Zealand industry focused on a largely inshore fishery fished from relatively small trawlers and other vessels.
Exclusive Economic Zone
Click for larger map
New Zealand’s 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was created in 1978. Since then, the fishing industry has expanded to include harvesting mid and deep-water species from within this EEZ. Initially, this involved joint ventures with overseas companies experienced in this type of fishing, but now most boats are New Zealand owned.
Although New Zealand’s EEZ is the fourth largest in the world, covering 1.3 million square nautical miles equivalent to 2.2 million square kilometres, 65% percent of that is too deep (over 1000 meters) or closed to commercial fishing.
One third of the EEZ is closed forever to bottom trawling as Benthic Protection Areas.
All commercial fishing in the EEZ is monitored via satellite by the New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries. This means that the government has a record of every trawl made in the EEZ. Less than 10 per cent of the entire EEZ has ever been trawled.
By the early 1980s fishing pressure had reduced the size of a number of New Zealand’s major fisheries, particularly the inshore fisheries. Because of this, in 1986 New Zealand introduced the Quota Management System (QMS) with the aims of conserving major fisheries stocks and making the fishing industry more efficient.
QMS involves the industry and government agencies continually working together to assess stock levels of all quota-managed species. From these results, the Ministry of Fisheries sets a yearly Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for each species concerned.
There are now 96 species or species groups controlled by the quota system. The system covers most major fisheries within New Zealand’s EEZ, and will eventually cover all our commercially harvested species. For a full list of the species included in the QMS see Species.
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.
You can read this research article by Dr Worm et al here or watch a summary:
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.