Transformation – a tall order for any industry Randall Bess

The theme to this year’s commercial fishing industry conference was ‘Seafood for a new generation.’

Discussions around this theme attracted wide interest, as they included, amongst other things, ‘transformation’ of the commercial industry and inter-sectoral future success – commercial, recreational, and customary fishing.

The discussions centred on the government-initiated, fishing industry-wide, 74page ‘Transformation Plan.’ The Plan’s aim is for the industry to reflect higher profitability and productivity and lower emissions while supporting people and communities.

Accordingly, the ‘transformation’ term has significant political overtones. The term should not be taken lightly; it can be a tall order for any industry.

In saying that, some ways the industry works have already been transformative, such as the collection of spatial data on catch and CPUE data, which has transformed the basis for some management decisions.

Some actions in the plan, however, might not be considered transformative. Instead, some are rapidly becoming sustainability hurdles that businesses must commit to attract or retain customers and local ‘buy-in’ to what businesses want, such as local labour.

Also, much more could be said in the plan about competitiveness. In fact, competition is mentioned once. This is ironic given that consumers are increasingly aware of the impact of their everyday choices; they are looking for products and brands that do good for the planet and people.

If businesses do not show commitment, then consumers go to more environmentally and people friendly industries, and they often don’t go quietly.

Similarly, apart from lowering emissions, the plan is light on responses to the unfamiliar challenges we face, such as climate change and ocean acidification, and there is no mention of international agreements on sustainable development, which should ultimately drive industry transformation.

The plan is also light on reducing benthic (seafloor) impacts of fishing. Fish Mainland’s view is that we understand the situation the industry is in regarding gearspecific vessels.

Our message is that we are prepared to work with the industry on how best to transition the fleet to reduce environmental impacts, and we recognise that innovation could be part of the solution.

The plan broadly refers to a need for the commercial, customary, and recreational sectors to work better together to address common sustainability challenges.

Fish Mainland’s response draws on the South Island where we already have two examples of the industry listening to local interests and participating in community-wide actions to improve the marine environment; they are the Fiordland Marine Guardians and the Kaikoura Marine Guardians.

Both are advisory groups that work with local interests, Iwi, local and central government agencies, and ministers to manage their respective marine areas.

Their collaborative way of working is a model for how marine management decisions can be made.

Such decisions often have a greater chance of success because they inherently demonstrate commitments to sustainability and gaining local ‘buy-in’, which more easily leads to achieving the political will for things to change.

Similarly, Fish Mainland’s vision for inter-sectoral success is already embraced and articulated by the Guardians; what they have in common is the environment comes first.

Furthermore, both Guardian groups understand that the overriding challenge to improved management of their areas is to collect better data on recreational catch and effort. A similar view is set out in the plan.

For this purpose, Fish Mainland has promoted fisher self-reporting of catch and effort data and in doing so developed an app, appropriately named Mainland Catch for South Island recreational fishers.

The use of Mainland Catch could greatly enhance the data available for many fisheries that are important to all fishing sectors www.

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