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.