An Ecosystem-Based Approach to Fisheries Management

Michael Bathgate and Assoc. Prof P. Ali Memon - Geography Department, University of Otago

Management of the marine environment in New Zealand is heavily influenced by the Quota Management System (or QMS). The QMS is based on the use of individual transferable quotas to manage marine fisheries, and aims to provide a framework for the sustainable utilisation of fish stocks. However, the focus of the QMS on production and economic goals appears to be precluding sustainable outcomes. There is a bias against non-commercial and non-extractive values in the marine environment, and little attention paid to ecosystem-based management.

Co-management provides an opportunity for a more holistic, ecological approach to marine management. By involving a range of marine stakeholders, co-management encourages a more integrated approach to fisheries management. The greater emphasis that co-management gives to non-commercial and non-extractive uses and values of marine resources has the potential to shift focus from a narrow fisheries management perspective to a wider ecosystem-based management approach.

Within the Otago/Southland paua fishery, a co-management initiative was established in 1992 in response to concerns about the paua stocks. The PAU 5 Working Group represents an informal attempt at co-management involving different stakeholder interests. Despite providing a forum for communication and co-operation between competing interests in the paua fishery, the PAU 5 Working Group has been unable to reap the full benefits of co-management.

The factors that have stalled the PAU 5 Working Group initiative are related to the wider difficulties in establishing effective marine ecosystem-based co-management in the current New Zealand context. These issues are addressed in this paper, and recommendations are developed for incorporating the wider participation of marine stakeholders.

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