Transparency in New Zealand Fisheries

Transparency in New Zealand Fisheries

Grantee WWF New Zealand
Grant Amount NZD $530,000
Duration Two Years

Overfishing, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities, human rights abuses, and fraud continue to be reported from the global seafood industry. At the same time, the efforts of companies practicing environmental and social responsibility are often not recognised. 

In the current climate, fishing companies are seeking social licence to continue to operate, and end markets are seeking mechanisms to ensure that they do not source from bad supply chains engaged in illegal or unethical practices. 

WWF New Zealand, with the support from Ocean5 and in partnership with industry and government agencies, is designing a full transparency model to eliminate unsustainable, illegal, and unethical fishing practices, whilst demonstrating social, environmental, and economic benefits, leading to a shift in New Zealand fisheries policy in favour of full transparency.

New Zealand's fisheries management system is considered relatively sound and progressive, with independent scientific assessments indicating that, overall, New Zealand's fisheries are doing well. New Zealand's foundation for fisheries management includes the Fisheries Act of 1996 and the Quota Management System (QMS), which have been in place for over 20 years. However, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) recently acknowledged the need for improvements and conducted a Fisheries Management Review in 2015 that led to a major work programme called the Fisheries Change Programme (FCP) that is currently underway. The FMR considered topics including fisheries management, processes, technology, research gathering, and regulations and legislation. Among those other significant considerations, the FMR specifically observed that "international seafood markets want to be sure that seafood products are sustainable and can be traced." Incentives and motivations are currently well aligned within both the government and industry to support a transparency project.

The impact of this project for the fishing industry is profound, both in New Zealand and globally. WWF expects to achieve a step change in the perspective and receptivity of both government and the industry toward true transparency and traceability in New Zealand, ultimately shifting policy.  WWF further expect markets, and the consumers they serve, to respond very positively and affirm the steps of New Zealand's progressive industry leaders toward transparency.  The level of transparency anticipated in this project would create unparalleled social license for the fishing industry to operate in New Zealand's waters, while providing unprecedented public access to information for analytical purposes as well as verification and validation.  Because New Zealand is globally recognised for its fisheries management policies and general approach to sustainable fisheries, the successful application of a true transparency model in New Zealand could serve as a beacon and touchstone for transparency applications in other fisheries around the globe.