What is 'Sustainable' ? The Oxford dictionary defines sustainable as something that is able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.  It also defines it another way; conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.  

New Zealand law requires catch limits for every fish stock to be set at levels that will ensure their long-term sustainability. The Ministry of Fisheries rigorously monitors the amount of fish caught against these limits and financial penalties are enforced if too much fish is caught in any one year.
Under this system, the commercial catching rights for each of New Zealand’s 636 fish stocks have been split into quota shares which can be freely bought and sold. New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the world to use individual transferable quotas on such a broad scale and across so many fisheries.

How can New Zealand be confident that their numbers are correct?

New Zealand has sophisticated fisheries research, management, and monitoring systems that work together to make sure future generations of New Zealanders will be able to enjoy and use healthy fisheries. Each year there is considerable investment in research and fisheries assessment. All research and assessment is carefully reviewed by expert scientists, with active participation by fisheries managers and representatives of environmental and commercial fishing interests.  The commercial fishing industry pays for a significant proportion of this research. The results of this research are freely available on the Ministry of Fisheries website

How does New Zealand enforce rules and protect marine resources?

The Ministry of Fisheries invests heavily in monitoring fishing activity and in encouraging and enforcing compliance with the law. Fishery Officers patrol New Zealand’s coastline to ensure all fishers comply with the rules. Fishing vessels are also monitored at sea using satellite technology, aeroplanes, and patrol boats, to ensure their crew follow the rules. In addition, Ministry Observers are periodically placed on fishing boats to monitor and record what fishers catch, and any interactions with seabirds, marine mammals or protected corals.

Why don't we use third party certification like Oceanwise or Seachoice?

New Zealand's Quota Management System is world leading.  It is federally run by the Government department Ministry of Fisheries.  Its legally built into the Fisheries act that New Zealand's seafood resources must remain sustainable for the generations to come. So why don't we use third party certification..New Zealand doesn't need to.  New Zealand is often referenced by leading fisheries scientists as being a world leader at fisheries management.  The industry spends in excess of $20 million a year in research & science to maintain sustainable catch limits per annum.  Basically, New Zealanders trust what the government and industry are doing.  The country hasn't seen any collapsed fisheries within its 4.4 million sq km waters (the 4th largest Exclusive Economic Zone  in the world).  Fisheries law enforcement is as tough with offenders as police are on driving offenders.  

Dr Pamela Mace, principal advisor for fisheries science at Ministry of Fisheries says in 2012 that "Of the stocks of known status in 2012, 83.2 per cent were described as not overfished. These represented 96.6 per cent by weight of the fish brought to shore.  For stocks considered to be overfished, corrective management action has been or is being put in place to rebuild them. " More of this interesting article can be read online by clicking here

One of the problems of acquiring a third party certification or recommendation (like Ocean wise and Sea Choice) is the cost.  It can cost a fishery 10's of thousands for a review of that particular species.  Over and above the millions already put into science and research by the industry.  Who pays for this third party certification/recommendation?  Large distributors will often pay for it because at the end of the day having a stamp like Ocean Wise on your product helps sell it.  Unlike federally run systems where the science and research is ongoing with the whole fishery, a third party organization/ NGO will base a recommendation on the assessment they last got funding for.  An example of this would be an assessment done in 2010 is no longer relevant in 2014 as fish stocks even without fishing pressure change annually.  

This is why seafood from a federally run management system with full time fishery scientists and funding is going to guarantee a sustainable choice to buying seafood.  The information and facts are up to date, its a law based system and set on the Harvest Strategy provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  For more info on how this strategy is adopted read New Zealand's Harvest Strategy here.   

By trusting what a country is doing with its fishery management system you then support the industry much more fairly than by choosing a third party certification choice only.  When its only large distributors that have the money for these certifications, it leaves the individual fishermen unable to sell their uncertified catch.  Even though their catch is considered sustainable by the federal system they operate under.  At 46 South we see this all too often.  The food service industry and consumers are led into believing that the only sustainable seafood options out there have to be certified by a NGO.  What consumers don't understand is there are federal systems out there already in place for developed countries that are working sustainably and have a uniform strategy unlike the differing criteria often found between Ocean Wise, Sea choice, Friends of the Sea, MSC, Safina Centre.  Their bright attractive logos are great for marketing but can upset the balance of diversity by singling out particular species which in the grand scheme of fisheries management isn't great.  It forces fisherman who often catch more than 2 species with their gear to illegally dump that fish because they cant get anything for that species...even though the science based federal system they catch with proves that species is harvested at sustainable levels.

In summary...

Support the seafood industry by asking if the seafood you eat is from a country with a developed federally run management system.  Examples are USA, Canada, Iceland, Northern Europe, New Zealand, Falkland Islands & Australia.  This supports the industry a lot fairer.  It means that markets can be developed for under-utilized species that the fisher is likely to catch and offers customers a greater option of choices instead of just Salmon, Lingcod, Halibut, Cod & Tuna.  46 South can help you with sustainable seafood choices from New Zealand.  We ensure we are up to date with the information from the government department 'Ministry of Fisheries'.  They produce a 1200 page document each year with the scientific information on how each commercial fish stock did within that year.  We don't send each buyer that document but we can take excerpts out and provide you with the info.  Or if you'd like some heavy reading it can be found on the Ministry's website.  Don't worry, the worlds fisheries aren't going to collapse! As long as we continue to be conscious buyers, trust our fishmongers & the government run systems in place to ensure the sustainability of a country's fishery for economic, social and native use.