Welcome to the last Update of 2023. What a year! If we thought that things would return to normal after the Covid years, we may have spoken too soon. 

Change has continued to happen at speeds we weren’t used to before 2020. And there were plenty of challenges. It’s easy to focus on negatives, so for this wrap-up we’ve chosen to remind ourselves of one of the tough things, but three of the good things, about 2023.

The challenge – rough weather impacts
There are plenty of challenges we could call out from the last 12 months. We have been frustrated to see the move away from using data and science as our north star for decision-making in some quarters. Misinformation is an ongoing bugbear. But the calamitous weather events of 2023 were unsurpassed in their impact. And we can’t talk about weather events, without acknowledging climate change. 

Flooding, cyclones and noticeably warmer waters have taken their toll and continue to do so. Cyclone Gabrielle was seriously disruptive to fishing and now, months later, our fishers are still having to avoid debris and slash in the waters off Hawke’s Bay and Tairawhiti Gisborne. You can read about this in the latest Seafood New Zealand magazine.  

We want to acknowledge everyone who has been affected by these events. We understand the financial and emotional toll they have taken. It is good to have services like FirstMate there to help people get through, which leads us to the first of our positives for the year.

The people
In our experience, fishing people are the best people. This year the industry has seen some profound changes. We have seen Sanford sell its inshore ACE rights and some vessels to Moana New Zealand. Sealord is in the process of acquiring Independent Fisheries Ltd. And we have amalgamated Seafood New Zealand, Deepwater Group and Fisheries Inshore into one organisation. Despite all the turmoil these changes naturally bring, our people have stayed the same – dependable, caring and real. 

Fishing people are often reluctant to celebrate themselves, so sometimes we have to say it for them – well done, keep going, be proud of what you’ve achieved and let’s keep looking positively towards the future.

Industry transformation
It may feel like it happened long ago, but it was this year in August that the Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) was finalised. Where this goes under a new government is uncertain, but the plan is likely to be helpful to anyone contemplating the possibilities for our industry. The plan contains three laudable goals:

  1. strengthen environmental performance
  2. increase the value created from fishing, and improve profitability and productivity
  3. support people in the industry and local communities.

The ITP also contains a lot of positivity. That reflects how we see our industry and how we believe the world should see us – positively and with a great future. And this has a lot to do with the third thing we want to celebrate this year.

Our environmental record
Despite what you may hear and see in our polarised world, seafood is green food. This year, more research came out which showed that fish is incredibly good for human health and fishing is one of the lowest-impact, healthy protein foods. 

Studies show seafood has lower carbon emissions than the likes of cheese and several types of red meat. Here is one of them. We are not saying you should give up cheese toasties or steak, rather – you can eat fish and know you are doing yourself a lot of good, with minimal impact to the planet. 

It was also pleasing to see some of the misinformation about trawling rebutted at last in the illustrious Nature journal. You might need a subscription to access the journal, but a summary is available freely here.

Closer to home, seafood’s low carbon footprint is evidenced in a study commissioned from Crown Research Institute AgResearch by the Seafood New Zealand Deepwater Council. The study measured the average carbon footprint of seafood harvested on 21 deepwater vessels between 2021 and 2022. Results indicate that with an average footprint of 1.19kg of carbon emissions per kilogram of whole fish, wild-caught seafood such as hoki and orange roughy have one of the smallest average footprints, worldwide.

And so – Merry Christmas
We hope seafood will feature in your festive celebrations and that you can take a moment to raise a glass to our industry and your contribution to it. The team here at Seafood New Zealand wish you all the best for a safe and happy Christmas. The Update will return in late January.  Meantime, Meri Kirihimete, Happy New Year and here’s to a 2024 with many more positives to celebrate.