By Karl Wixon
As an island nation whose indigenous story of origin is a fishing story, of Maui fishing up the north island from the ocean, fishing is in our DNA.
But there is more to the story than just being gatherers, when Maui fished up the North Island there came with this a sense of care and responsibility – something that remains today.
As kaitiaki (guardians) it is our responsibility to ensure the well-being of our 4.4million km2 marine environment and the sustainability of our $1.6bn fisheries export industry.
Our kaitiaki ethos combined with our adventurous spirit of innovation, means we are frequently world leaders in finding ingenious ways to protect our precious fisheries resources, while still ensuring we achieve optimum value from them.
New Zealand’s Quota Management System introduced in 1986 to address what was an unsustainable catch volume was world leading and there’s more where that came from.
‘Precision Seafood Harvesting’ – a new sustainable fishing technology, is set to revolutionise the fishing industry and create a new category of premium seafood built on principles of care – ‘Tiaki’.
Precision Seafood Harvesting replaces traditional trawl nets with modular harvesting systems, a more sustainable way of fishing producing higher quality seafood.
When fishing in-shore species using this technology; fish are brought on board alive, swimming in water and in pristine condition. There is also the potential for undersized or unintended catch to be returned to the sea with a much higher survivability rate.
When used to harvest deep water species such as alfonsino or hoki, the new technology is reducing the damage to the fish, increasing the quality and adding significant value to the catch.
Precision Seafood Harvesting is a Primary Growth Partnership, launched in 2012, between the Ministry for Primary Industries and three of our commercial fishing companies - Sanford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries – representing a combined investment of 48 million dollars.
Not only is this good for the environment, it is great for business – ensuring we can provide discerning markets with the best quality possible. CEO of Sealord Steve Yung says capitalising on the demand domestically and worldwide for premium seafood is important for industry.
“The quality of the Tiaki caught fish is really going to give us the opportunity to set New Zealand apart from the rest of the world and give us a competitive advantage, particularly in the markets of Asia.”
“The Tiaki brand and technology will allow us to take advantage of the fact that it is a limited resource that we care for, that we catch sustainably, and that we can add value to.”
Aotearoa Fisheries CEO Carl Carrington describes the threefold benefits of the technology as sustainability, quality and value growth.
Greg Summerton of Ngāi Tahu, owner of Okains Bay Seafood nestled in Banks Peninsula, understands the value of such practices and has built his business based on principles of care and quality.
Okains Bay Seafood uses discerning long-line fishing techniques to target species, caught from bio-diesel fuelled boats. Okains Bay aims to ensure all of it’s products are ‘carbon neutral’, whether delivered to markets locally or in Los Angeles or London. In addition to being the largest user of Marine Bio-diesel in New Zealand they are planting thousands of trees offsetting their carbon footprint.
Greg’s family has been commercially fishing since 1840 and he wants his descendants to be able to continue this tradition based on principles well articulated in a whakatauaki, Māori proverbial saying, that they refer to as a company:
‘Toitu te marae a Tane, Toitu te marae a Tangaroa, Toitu te iwi’
If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive.
Principles we should all subscribe to as kaitiaki.