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Reflections on a good year for the seafood sector

Friday 14 December 2018

As 2018 draws to a close it is timely to review the industry’s accomplishments and challenges.

In what has become almost business as usual we have taken our share of flak – much of it undeserved. However there has also been much to celebrate.

Seafood exports were up two percent and are forecast to increase 6.4 percent annually over the next 18 months to reach $2 billion in June 2020. Demand from key markets continues to rise keeping prices up and the growth in aquaculture production will see higher export volumes. King Salmon overcame last year’s heat-related fish deaths to post a healthy profit of $26.2 million on sales of $160 million. MPI expect aquaculture, particularly salmon and mussels to lift aquaculture revenue to $500 million by 2020.

China, Europe, the US and Japan make up 80 percent of seafood’s total export value and given these countries’ steady economic outlook the demand for our seafood is expected to stay strong.

While the new Fisheries New Zealand continues to bed itself in the industry has been supported well by its Minister, Stuart Nash. Pragmatic calls like delaying full-scale camera implementation and scrapping a technical advisory group that would delay further any real solutions to issues that have been endlessly discussed for years have been made.

The arrival of Sealord’s $70 million factory trawler Tokatu was not only a huge moment for the company but could radically change the way the industry catches its quota, with the suggestion that major companies share large vessels to fill their quota more quickly and more efficiently.

The shelving of hoki quota in September goes firmly into the achievement file, despite some trying to paint it differently. We should all be proud of an industry that acts quickly and voluntarily to address fish stock changes. It was a brave and financially painful call, but one that quota owners recognised they needed to make.

Innovation in the industry continued to play an increasingly important role, with Revolution Fibres quadrupling production of the collagen they are extracting from Sanford-supplied hoki skins. The collagen is used for a cosmetic treatment called ActivLayr which is going global. China, Singapore, the UK and Canada are already customers and the increase in production means Revolution Fibres can extend their sales further. 

2018 was another year of upping the ante on the industry to improve its environmental performance, which was reinforced with the announcement of a fleet-wide programme to mitigate the risk to protected species, which will be rolled out to New Zealand’s inshore fishing fleet in the next two years. This is additional to a similar programme already instigated in the deepwater and surface long-line sectors.

And improving the industry’s performance overall was the subject of a 15-port road show by Seafood New Zealand to drive home the six-point Code of Conduct formulated to back the industry Promise made in 2017. This was a valuable opportunity for SNZ and Fisheries Inshore to hear from those at sea and to discuss the political and governance issues being dealt with in Wellington. We will be on the road again in 2019.

 We will inevitably feel the blowtorch of the media and our political foes once again in the next 12 months, but we should not lose sight of the significant progress the industry is making.

While acknowledging our failings, we should always celebrate our successes.

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