the option4 team
This article was
originally published in the New Zealand Fishing News August 2007
is legal in New Zealand, provided you are a commercial fisherman;
you land any fish taken in excess of your quota and pay a
penalty fee called ‘deemed value’.
are appalled that over 2,000,000 snapper have been taken in
excess of sustainable limits over the past twelve years.
an injustice that some commercial fishermen are reaping handsome
rewards from selling those extra fish while non-commercial
fishers are struggling to ‘catch a feed’.
Deemed value payments were a mechanism designed to cover accidental
The penalties were
never intended to legitimise widespread fishing above the
set quotas, and is particularly concerning when it occurs
in important shared fisheries.
the Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) issued new proposals to
increase the deemed values
for many species.
up the penalties may help reduce the profit motive for overfishing
the plan fails to address the fundamental issue of replacing
the fish that were taken in excess of quota limits.
option4 has made
numerous submissions addressing the deemed
value issue, the most recent was a joint effort with
a number of organisations in October 2006.
energy was put into outlining why excess commercial catch should
be taken off the following year’s quota. This would make up
for the loss of fish and their subsequent productivity, from the
overall fish population. It would also keep catches to sustainable
limits over the long-term.
A fundamental principle of the quota management system is that ALL
catch and fishing related mortality is accounted for. Deemed fish
were falling through the cracks. Our alternative proposal would
ensure that deemed fish were counted against commercial allocations,
as they should.
to improving sustainability
One of the crucial roles of a fisheries manager is to implement
incentives that encourage compliance and promotes sustainable
to be matched to the particular situation to be effective.
Setting high deemed values creates a disincentive (rather
than an incentive) to improve the sustainability of fisheries.
If fishing occurred in
areas where others could observe the activity (as occurs in agriculture)
then using incentives such as penalties for taking too much are
likely to be effective. The harvester would have no option but to
land the catch in excess of the quota limit if there were witnesses.
As we all know, fishing in New Zealand is quite different than that.
fishing usually occurs in isolated locations where the public or
other fishers cannot see the fishing operation. This remoteness
provides fishermen with the opportunity to undertake activities
that are illegal, because there is little chance of being caught.
An example is overfishing, the fisher can dump the excess fish without
being seen and therefore without penalty.
Setting the deemed value penalty too high would encourage such illegal
activity – why would a fisher return to port with excess catch
when the action will result in him/her losing money?
The objective to reduce wastage and ensure sustainability of fisheries
through deeming has obviously failed in many fisheries important
to non-commercial fishers.
on recreational fishers
inevitable consequence of overfishing is that fish numbers
and size decrease over time.
All New Zealanders have a common law right to fish to provide
for their needs. This right was recently confirmed in the
Legal Challenge decision.
Rhys Harrison ruled that enabling people to provide for their
wellbeing was a mandatory consideration for the Minister.
The ability to exercise
that right comes down to access to the marine environment and the
availability of fish of an acceptable size.
Deeming above the sustainable total allowable commercial catch (TACC)
limits erodes people’s access to a reasonable number of fish,
particularly where there is a need to rebuild stocks.
Specific concerns are held for depleted fisheries such as the snapper
population on the west coast of the North Island (Snapper 8). This
fishery has been seriously overfished for 30 years. In 1998 the
Fisheries Minister decided it needed rebuilding so a ten-year strategy
was put in place to restore the snapper fishery, which stretches
from Wellington to North Cape.
Despite quota limits and the Minister’s decision, Snapper
8 (SNA8) quota has been exceeded fifteen times over the past
eighteen years. In 2005 the current Minister, Jim Anderton, reduced
catch limits again and adjusted the deemed value penalty. However,
the profits to be made from deeming excess fish have meant that
these new quota limits have had little effect on overcatch.
In 2006 the chronic deeming continued and the SNA8 quota was exceeded
by more than 10 percent. This is a serious issue when this fishery
is at only half the sustainable level required by the Fisheries
Act, and when recreational and customary allowances have been reduced
as a consequence of excessive commercial fishing.
Some industry representatives don’t support excessive deeming
but agree that it is commercially viable to target and land some
species if the deemed value penalty is not high enough.
MFish has acknowledged the difficulty in setting the deemed value
at a level that encourages fishers to report their catch and not
resort to illegal dumping of fish, particularly in fisheries such
as SNA8 where MFish’ compliance response is limited.
option4 accept that exploiting a natural resource will always have
an element of variability associated with factors such as seasonal
changes, productivity and water temperature. However, the current
system is obviously flawed when the economic model that is supposed
to control excess catch fails.
Fish caught in excess of quota is either landed or slipped over
the side and that decision is based on economic return. It is not
possible to have a single dollar value that serves as both as an
incentive to land and a disincentive to catch excess fish.
Export returns for snapper in 2006 was around $29 million dollars.
With that amount of return on investment you would think it would
be in the collective interest of all commercial fishers to put their
hand up and take responsibility for their combined actions.
Commercial fishers have been given a property right to extract an
explicit amount of fish from a resource that belongs to all New
Zealanders. With rights comes responsibilities. option4 believe
the fishing industry should respect that limit and MFish should
hold them to it.
To read the 2006 submission on deemed
values go here » » »
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