Sea Fisheries QMS Needs Urgent Review and Overhaul

Opinion by Tony Orman


The Quota Management System that has been governed New Zealand sea fisheries “management” for over 30 years has been corrupted, is counter-productive and needs replacing.
Thirty four years ago as president of the NZ Recreational Fishing Council (before it was hamstrung by personal egos) I attended the meeting that set up the QMS. John B Henderson,  president of the NZ Federation of Rifle Rod and Gun Sportsmen, accompanied me. John and I told the meeting that was dominated by departmental bureaucrats and commercial interests that the QMS by way of its tradable nature would lead to wheeling and dealing by the  corporate companies and would result  in a corporate monopoly of the industry.
Our warnings of the corporate domination were ignored. Sadly it become the reality. John and I also made the point the fishery was in essence a public resource and that there was no “property right” but a privilege by way of leasing of the resource. That was ignored by the stacked meeting. Again sadly the corporate companies do arrogantly regard quota as a property right.
The QMS is “34 years of failure.”
Had in hand with that has been the failure of the ministry to honour the Fisheries Act fundamental intent that the fishery be managed equally for “social, economic and cultural” sectors, i.e. recreational, commercial and customary stakeholders.
In Marlborough in 1994, the recreational bag limit on snapper was slashed from 10 to 3 in arrogant fashion while the commercial quota remained unchanged. In 2007, there was the Marlborough Sounds blue cod fiasco with the fishery closed to the recreational public yet commercial carried on with no new restrictions. Recreational set netting for moki and butterfish was banned while commercial continued as usual. Even when recreational set netting was reinstated, absurd restrictions were applied to recreational but not to commercial.
Kahawai Depleted
A year or so go, the Marlborough Recreational Fishers Association wrote to minister Nash about the severe depletion of kahawai. “Workups” once commonplace in Cloudy Bay and the Marlborough Sounds are today virtually non-existent. 
Nash’s reply was arrogant and dismissive. Of course he didn’t write the letter; undoubtedly ministry bureaucrats did. Which raises the question that Mark referred to of the culture within the ministry.


Recreational Fishers get low priority from ministry culture which is biassed towards corporate companies.

The association had constant problems during the blue cod saga of getting an appointment with a succession of ministers in the National government. Phil Heatley was good but he was strangely demoted. It took several months to get appointments at the Beehive with succeeding ministers David Carter and Nathan Guy. Two delegations travelled to Wellington to be treated with disdain by the ministers and bureaucrats. Whereas apparently corporate fishing bosses can “cold call” and walk in anytime to see a minister. A blue cod recreational working group was gagged by bureaucrats and members forbidden to report back to their groups.
In discussing this discrimination with a ministry scientist a few years ago, I suggested the power and influence of the corporate companies was excessive to the point of hampering management decisions. Ruefully he smiled and said, “Yes. It’s a big problem.” 
Arguably Corrupt
Are political donations by corporate companies to political parties simply a way to screw whoever is in government for special favours?
If so, it is arguably corrupt.
While NZ First received adverse publicity for receiving donations from Talleys, I suspect there will be other fishing companies donating and probably to other parties. Did Labour receive donations from the corporate fishing companies? In the light of previous fisheries minister Stuart Nash announcing in 2019, Labour’s 2017 election promise to review the QMS would not take place, it does raise the question. Then there was the cameras on commercial boats issue about which minister Nash’s efforts seemed lethargic and unenthusiastic.
There should be a review of the whole fishing industry which should include political donations, ministry culture and everything relating to the dysfunctional, arguably corrupt fishing industry.
It must be a wide ranging enquiry of integrity and no whiff of a “kangaroo court.”



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5 Responses to Sea Fisheries QMS Needs Urgent Review and Overhaul

  1. Alex Cubro says:

    The political donations scandal is appalling. If there was transparency and accountability (much uttered words but seldom practised), the public would be told of donations by Talleys and other fisheries companies to political parties.
    The Ministry of Primary Industries/Fisheries is so inept with no semblance of an ecological approach to management.

  2. Vivienne Peters says:

    The worst total lack of care by government was to let 13 Commercial boats from Nelson fish for scallops in our Marlborough Sounds after depleting their fishery . Sadly as predicted our scallop fishery was soon in peril as well . Private fishermen/women are treated the lowest in the food chain — yet they cannot catch the huge amounts that the Commercial guys do. Private fishermen/women are often the locals and are keen to protect their favourite spots from over fishing ,and are more knowledgeable that the boffins in Parliament , fishery inspectors or iwi at times .We are all immigrants and should be known as New Zealanders ,so that rules are for everyone .

  3. Barry Day says:

    Thanks Tony,
    I’m a kiwi, a commercial fisherman out of California. It is recognized here that New Zealand is the prime example on how NOT to run a fishery.

    This is the crux.

    By giving corporations the power to buy quota. They do.

    Commercial fishing is a hard profession and at times hands are thrown in the air in frustration. That’s the point where corporations have moved in with lush offers and taken the quota. The net result is a generation of commercial fisherman have become hog tied to corporations.

    It is law here that corporations can not own permits/quota share. The way they can get around this? Large corporate suppliers give out loans to fisherman for boat expansions etc. That’s likely the devil getting its head in far enough. They expect boats with loans to solely deliver to them. That is our issue here with there boats becoming bigger and having more say in price negotiations. I’m guessing your getting my drift here. I’m independent and a lot of our fleet are.

    New Zealand has the particular issue of needing big boats due to its huge EEZ zone, the boats need to get far offshore. That’s where they should stay. Far off shore.

    The corporations have taken over a fisherman’s basic right if he wishes to do it for a living. The right to harvest a public resource and sell it to the public.

    That’s my point of view in a nutshell. If anyone here works for a corporation and loves the freedom of going fishing. A That is the freedom a commercial fisherman should have.

    As a commercial fisherman that remembers with vivid recollection the time as a boy.
    On the mighty Tongario river. The night before fishing it. Tony Orman teaching me to tie a red setter for the next day. That’s what sparks a commercial love, my old man Norrie fishing on Pania reef while I’m out of the boat hanging on to the anchor chain to get away from sea sickness. Every independent commercial fisherman will have a good story on what got them there. The main one, that it was past down to them from there parents has gone.

    With commercial fishing in New Zealand. What is being past down is this.
    The shares the stockholders have in the corporations.

  4. Dave says:

    It looks to me that this Government is hell bent on destroying not only the bush with its 1080 but the oceans around NZ as well. As a young chap I had the ability and the law allowed it to take up cray fishing and and I did in a small way . This has all gone now where quota’s have come in. In the 1950’s one could go to the fishing ports and buy directly off the fishermen. We had 40 footers doing the fishing and there were no problems. Then greed came in and we had Japanese fishing boats all around our coast, and then we had big ships as well which never thought of the NZ people all they were after were dollars from overseas. Do we have to have these big boats taking our fish stocks to feed other nations? No we don’t . To reduce the fish stocks has a great impact on the environment due to the amount of oxygen it produces and ruining the ecosystem which is make the sea more acid. The amount of fish stocks taken to feed our nation has no impact but raping it does so where are the people who control this —asleep again at the wheel. Hell no they are taking the hand outs and corruption that
    the industry has created with little thought for the recreational fisherperson. It is time we woke up to this corruption and demanded better policies.

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