The different fisheries sectors in New Zealand are too often pitted against each other as they argue for priority but iwi can improve their opportunities and gain increased benefit through greater collaboration, Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Maori Fisheries Trust, says.
And while iwi can look to increase benefits from their fishing rights, they can also help improve the management of New Zealand’s fisheries resources at the same time.
Te Ohu Kaimoana, which represents Maori collective interests in fisheries, has released a document to promote discussion amongst iwi and hapu on how to encourage greater collaboration in managing their common fishing interests.
Iwi have multiple fishing interests – commercial, which is the direct ownership of quota and shares in Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd, and non-commercial, expressed through customary non-commercial access and recreational fishing regulations, the Chairman of the Trust, Matiu Rei, says.
“People talk about the commercial, customary or recreational sector but forget that Maori customary rights include all three. That involvement continues today with Maori having significant interests in all sectors.”
“Unfortunately these interests often appear to be pitted against each other as the different fishing sectors argue for priority,” Mr Rei said.
Examples of tension between iwi and hapu about access to fish are exacerbated by the design of the Fisheries Settlement – which settled Maori fishing claims but in doing so, separated Maori customary fishing rights into separate commercial and non-commercial regimes. This has acted to divide rather than strengthen tribal structures.
“The government did not intend for these regimes to be in opposition. Indeed they ought to support one another because the fisheries are the same fisheries. The fish do not swim around labelled as commercial, customary or recreational,” Mr Rei said.
The document proposes that iwi organisations and hapu work together to resolve the tensions they face in managing their fishing interests – rather than let the government and third parties undermine their unity.
It notes that there are two approaches to managing fishing. One is coercive – in which case the Government makes all the decisions about who gets what and how things should be managed. Where there is conflict – they determine the outcome. The other is collaborative and involves fisheries stakeholders working together to resolve how fisheries should be managed within the laws and regulations established by the Government.
By working within the network of tribal relationships Maori are well placed to take this second approach. “A key challenge for us is to exercise our customary commercial and non-commercial fishing rights in a balanced and integrated way – and within a tribal system that meets our needs in a modern context,” said Mr Rei.
First steps need to be taken at the home base where tension is often played out. In some cases iwi and hapu have already started this work and are achieving positive and practical results. With the assistance of Te Ohu Kaimoana, iwi in Taranaki have been working with a commercial operator and the Ministry of Fisheries to pilot a “pataka-whata” system. This system enables a commercial vessel to harvest fish under a customary permit. Fish is then stored in a “pataka” (storeroom) and can be used when needed predominantly for tangi. Iwi organisations have taken responsibility for establishing and running the pataka, which can be accessed by the kaitiaki of their local marae.
Mr Rei said that by talking openly about these issues, Te Ohu Kaimoana hopes that hapu and iwi (including the kaitiaki they appoint) will be able to find ways to work together to find practical solutions to fisheries management problems.
“Te Ohu Kaimoana encourages iwi to advance this approach but recognises it is up to iwi to decide when they want lead the discussion,” said Mr Rei.
He added that Te Ohu Kaimoana is ready to assist iwi with information on practical approaches working elsewhere and tools that can help with implementing local solutions.
A full copy of the discussion document can be found here: http://teohu.maori.nz/documents/publications/2011-05-Weaving-together-our-common-interests-in-fishing.pdf.
For more information contact: Te Ohu Kaimoana Chairman, Mr Matiu Rei on 027 601 0403
Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Executive, Mr Peter Douglas on 021 375 162
Communications: Glenn Inwood 021 890 868
Background to Maori Fisheries
Maori customary rights to harvest fish contained commercial and non-commercial elements – and were recognised and secured by Article II of the Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand courts.
Maori claims to the full bundle of these rights were recognised by the New Zealand courts and given legal expression through the 1992 Fisheries Settlement, colloquially known as the “Sealord Deal”. The Settlement recognised that neither the commercial nor non-commercial element was bound in the past but should fit in with the contemporary regime including providing for further development.
The Crown compensated Maori for the commercial aspect of these customary rights, and undertook to ensure that the remaining non-commercial aspects would be given expression through regulations.
However the process and timing that produced the design and implementation of the Fisheries Settlement has encouraged Maori and iwi to act in a divided way when pursuing their fishing interests. Different parts of the settlement refer to iwi, hapu, whanau, and tangata whenua. In some instances these groups have been treated as though they are unrelated and autonomous, rather than as part of a web of tribal relationships.
The discussion document “Weaving Together Our Common Interests in Fishing – Advancing a Kaimoana Strategy” is intended to explore the nature of this division, the kinds of tensions that are being played out, the consequences it has for tribal structures and processes and ultimately for iwi ability to manage common interests in fishing.
Te Ohu Kaimoana assists, protects and enhances the interests of iwi and Maori in relation to fisheries, fishing and fisheries-related activities across the full spectrum of interests. This recognises that one interest cannot be advanced without affecting others.
Management of customary commercial and non-commercial fishing at different spatial scales
The 1992 Fisheries Settlement cleared the way for the Government to extend the Quota Management System to all New Zealand’s commercial fisheries.
There are currently 97 species within the Quota Management System, made up of 633 individual stocks. Each stock is managed within a quota management area.
A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is set for each stock, which includes a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC), a recreational allowance, a customary allowance, and an allowance for “other sources of fishing related mortality” (which includes illegal harvest and research requirements).
The TAC is based on an estimate of the maximum sustainable yield for that stock. This represents the maximum amount that can be harvested from the stock on an indefinite basis without changing its population size, or in other words, harvesting at the same rate that the stock replenishes itself – thus maintaining a constant biomass. This also means that the size of any stock fished after an initial “fishing down” period will be less than its unfished state, but will replenish itself faster than if it had not been fished.
This tension between the management of stocks at the scale of quota management areas, and the effects of harvesting on populations at the local level contributes in turn to tension between the different sectors who have an interest in those stocks, including the commercial sector (in which iwi have an interest) and the non-commercial sector (which includes the non-commercial interests of iwi/hapu through tangata whenua and kaitiaki).
At the same time, some commercial players (for instance paua and rock lobster fishers) also recognise that management at the scale of quota management areas is too big for day-to-day management of harvesting and that they need to manage their harvesting within smaller spatial scales.
Kaitiaki are authorised by the customary regulations to issue customary permits only within their defined rohe moana. These areas are usually sub-areas – or “slivers” – of quota management areas.