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Fisheries Minister Addresses Seafood Conference

NEW ZEALAND - In a speech to the Seafood Industry Council Conference, Minister of Fisheries, Phil Heatley, discussed the progress of New Zealands (NZ) fishing industry. He highlighted the recent challenges faced, opportunities to be taken and changes that are to be made.

Mr Heatley opened the speech by saying how proud he was of NZ's Quota Management System, which has led to NZ becoming a fisheries leader and having a system that everyone wants to copy.

Discussing recent challenges, Mr Heatley spoke about the recent tsunami in Japan, which disrupted their flow of exports to the country.

He praised NZ on its response to these challenges and for making the best out of each situation.

Moving on, Mr Heatley began to talk about opportunities and challenges in more depth including trade with China and the move to merge the Ministry of Fisheries with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Mr Heatley commented on the export prices for the last year saying they have remained strong. “The total value of seafood exports for the year ended March 2011 increased by a very healthy 11.4 per cent to NZ$ 1.52 billion. Inshore shellfish did even better – a 17.2 per cent increase to over NZ$ 281 million.”

He believes these strong figures reflect the high NZ dollar which has driven investment into higher value products.

When speaking about opportunities, Mr Heatley said: “The biggest opportunities will be in increased efficiencies in catching and processing, and adding value to seafood, not in increasing catches.”

“Investment is needed to get anywhere with that. The big challenge is to create more value from the same amount of fish.”

Other areas that were of interest to Mr Heatley were, the inshore fishery and the rock lobster and paua fisheries.

All of these he said were in need of controlled expansion and management.

Talking about research services, Mr Heatley said: “The ministry is in the process of revising its approach to the way it procures research through a move to longer-term contracts.”

“An international tender has been put out to support the implementation of the 10-year research programme for deepwater fisheries.”

The Ministry is also looking at the best way to support direct purchasing of research by industry. A report on this is now on the Ministry’s website.

In terms of regulations, Mr Heatley said the next step is progressing the Regulatory Reform Bill, which includes two amendments to the Fisheries Act, which will ensure a simple process for registration as a “notified user”.

“We're also looking to consolidate the fisheries commercial and amateur regulations to ease the regulatory burden on stakeholders by (among other things) providing for less regulation - revoking 22 sets of regulations and consolidating them into two sets, allowing greater accessibility for users, and helping any substantive reform of the consolidated regulations in future.”

In terms of catch limits, Mr Heatley said his approach is always to be cautious and responsible saying: “I’ll increase catch limits only when I’m sure it will be sustainable. If the research says a reduction is needed for the sake of sustainability, that’s where I’ll go.”

To close, Mr Heatley wished everyone luck with new challenges and opportunities that arise all the time and said that they can be used to the country's best advantage.

He also stated how he hopes to see the same intense focus on inshore fisheries.

“I want to better get the balance for recreational, customary and commercial users. This will mean the same level of intense work that has gone into the aquaculture reforms,” he conluded.

the Fish Site Editor

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