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About 1300 com­mer­cial fish­ing ves­sels op­er­ate in New Zealand wa­ters, and the fish­ing in­dus­try em­ploys about 25,000 New Zealan­ders. Of the 130 species com­mer­cially fished, 97 are man­aged un­der New Zealand’s Quota Man­age­ment Sys­tem, which was first in­tro­duced in 1986. This is in­tended to reg­u­late how much is caught in given ar­eas and at what times so as to pro­vide a good catch with­out de­stroy­ing the life cy­cles of fish species for the fu­ture.

It’s a con­tro­ver­sial job. Be­cause it has an el­e­ment of fore­cast­ing it can­not be a truly ex­act sci­ence, and set­ting quo­tas be­comes a del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween com­plex sci­en­tific re­search into the health of our oceans and the de­mands and de­sires of our fish­ing in­dus­try. But in­ter­est­ingly, it is not just a case of the gov­ern­ment try­ing to rein in a ra­pa­cious fleet look­ing to take as much as pos­si­ble. For in­stance, last Septem­ber the fish­ing in­dus­try was split over a 10,000 tonne in­crease in the hoki quota pro­posed by the gov­ern­ment. Sealord and Talley’s wel­comed the change, but their pub­licly-listed com­peti­tor San­ford said it was too much, too fast, and called for the decision to be post­poned un­til fur­ther re­search into fish stock health had been com­pleted.

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