I’ve been doing a lot of talking, reading, and thinking with ICFA members lately. ICFA is the International Coalition of Fisheries Associations. Seafood New Zealand is a member along with the national fishing organisations from 24 other countries that collectively harvest 85% of the world’s fish. We meet regularly, usually virtually but in person when we can. We also exchange emails and talk one-on-one. In my case, those individual chats are often with our colleagues in Australia.

Why is New Zealand part of ICFA? Three main reasons: knowledge sharing, support, and having a voice.

The first advantage, knowledge sharing, means Seafood New Zealand can learn about and understand big changes that are happening worldwide which will affect all those that produce seafood. We can also share research and policy developments that help us all navigate these changes, such as the shifting rules around conservation and marine protected areas (MPAs). These changes sometime originate from international bodies or agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, sometimes from Governments, and often are driven by NGOs, particularly those focused on the environment.

A key example is the global 30 by 30 target, which seeks to have 30% of the world’s oceans in marine protected by 2030.

The 25 members of ICFA have slightly different positions on MPAs. For some members, individual MPAs may have a specific purpose and fishing with any method in those areas should be allowed if it doesn’t undermine that purpose. They believe that sustainable use is important to protect and that MPAs can be a barrier to this. At Seafood New Zealand, we rely on a healthy marine environment, and believe protecting it should be done thoughtfully, with a range of tools, and with a view to addressing specific stressors. We also need to retain the ability to feed people. It’s also important to recognise the MPAs we already have in New Zealand, but that’s a topic for another Update!

The point we all agree on as fishing organisations, is when these questions come up, we need science to guide decision making.

New Zealand doesn’t have the time or money to collate all the science ourselves. ICFA is looking to help bring this science together and create a resource where you can find the latest and best information on oceans and seafood. This will take time, but it is so important. New Zealand will benefit from this in so many areas that affect us, from the debate about marine protection, to getting definitive information about the many benefits of eating seafood.

Another benefit of being part of ICFA is the support we get from being part of a group of people all trying to do the same thing: to fish sustainably in order to nourish the world and keep our businesses ticking over by making sure we have a resource that lasts indefinitely into the future.

Feeding people sustainably has to be a priority. This is true worldwide. We (and ICFA) are thinking about how we can feed a world under pressure because of climate change. Seafood is a key part of the answer, and 600 million people worldwide depend on seafood for their livelihoods. The UN says so in multiple reports.

But despite our value to the world, it can feel like we are constantly under attack. This is where being part of a supportive group is so important. We are not alone. The challenges we face here in New Zealand are being faced by others who are also genuinely trying to do the right thing.

And that’s where having a common voice is so important. When we are isolated, we are just one small group in one country. But when we talk to others we can do so much more. New Zealand fishing companies can’t afford the huge costs involved in going to the many international meetings where decisions about fishing are made. But if we share the work with our international colleagues, we have more of a chance of being heard. We have an amazingly progressive fishing industry, we have the fourth largest EEZ in the world. We deserve to be heard.

In future Updates I’ll keep you informed about interesting developments in global commercial fishing and marine management. I’ll also pass on interesting science and any new thinking or important data that comes from our international colleagues.

Seafood is an amazing food. Let’s remember why we eat fish and why we should appreciate those in the seafood business. And let’s talk about it, locally and globally. Seafood New Zealand is using its voice to represent our industry at home and abroad. With our committed and hard working people and our focus on doing the right thing, we are proud to do so.


Jeremy Helson
Chief Executive