New Zealand fisheries are in good heart, with great potential for the future, Seafood New Zealand Chief Executive Tim Pankhurst said today.

He was speaking at the Marine Societies of New Zealand and Australia conference at Victoria University of Wellington, which has attracted more than 350 marine scientists from both countries.

Pankhurst says the outlook for the New Zealand seafood industry is bright.

“We are not going to run out of fish.”

“We have a seafood sector that is in good heart. Our stocks are sustainable – it’s not just the fishing industry saying that, the science supports it, and the world wants what we produce – and aquaculture is expanding.”

The New Zealand Government has set an ambitious target of doubling export returns by 2025, Pankhurst says.

“We are well on track to achieving that, with seafood exports reaching a record high of $1.8 billion in the year to April – an 11.4 per cent increase on the previous year.”

Achieving the Government’s target will rely on adding value to the fish landed by being ahead of the game in understanding what’s happening in the global marketplace.

“Consumers globally are increasingly being influenced by factors such as health benefits, food safety and ethical and environmental credentials of the food they are purchasing.

“The industry has been through some rough water this year, with the release out of Auckland University of a flawed report estimating greatly inflated historical catch that has been uncritically reported. The report’s findings have been disputed by industry and Government and its methodology is still a mystery, Pankhurst says.

“But there is much to celebrate about the Quota Management System, 30 years old this year, which has placed us among the best world’s fisheries management systems. 

“That system, far sighted when it was introduced in 1986, ended the race to fish in favour of property rights over set quota that can be closely monitored.

“There is no argument from industry that our fisheries management could be further enhanced to meet present and future challenges, including better management of non-target species.

“We are keen to enter dialogue with Government around this,” Pankhurst says.