The Quota Mangement System (QMS) requires accurate and up-to-date technical information by those living with the QMS to ensure correct administration and compliance. This, the third update our Guide to the QMS, has been produced as a response to the needs of commercial operators and fisheries administrators to assist their understanding on how to comply with the many requirements under the fisheries Acts of 1983 and 1996 and associated legislation. The provisions of the Fisheries Act 1996 will come into force over the next three years. During this period the 1983 Act will be progressively repealed as the provisions of the 1996 Act are implemented.

In this Guide we have endeavoured to cover the main areas of the QMS which may well play an important part in the day to day operation of your fishing business.

The Revised edition includes:

  • In depth step by step guide to the QMS for commercial managers, accountants and legal advisors
  • References to appropriate sections to the Fisheries Act 1996
  • Arranging quota with appropriate documentation
  • Counting catch against Quota
  • Where to sell fish



    S28B (FA1983)

    The New Zealand 200 mile EEZ is divided into 10 areas, each known as a Fisheries Management Area (FMA). To provide for more effective management, separate fishstocks have been identified based on the known distribution of biological stocks for each species. Each fishstock has been defined by its own Quota Management Area (QMA), which may be the same area as an FMA or, where the same fishstock extends across one or more FMAs, a QMA may be several FMAs combined. For some species there are only one or two fishstocks covering the whole EEZ (eg the HOK1 QMA covers all FMAs 1 to 9) while others have separate fishstocks in most of the QMAs. For specific details of the QMAs applying to each species and each fishstock refer to our publication "The Atlas of Area Codes and TACCs ".

    1.3.2 Total Allowable Commercial Catches

    S28C, 28CA, 28D (FA1983)

    Total Allowable Catches (TAC) are set for each fishstock managed under the QMS.

    The TACs are determined by assessing the maximum sustainable yield from each fishstock. This provides a measure of the total annual allowable take by all groups including commercial, recreational and traditional users.

    Once the TACs have been determined, a Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is set for each fishstock.

    Each TACC is determined after consideration of the TAC, taking into account recreational and other non-commercial interests in the fishery and any other relevant environmental social, cultural or economic factors. Each TACC is allocated amongst quota owners as ITQ.

    1.3.3 Individual Transferable Quota

    An ITQ is the right to catch a specified proportion of the TACC for a quota species within a QMA each fishing year. ITQ are allocated in perpetuity and specified in kilograms. Each owner has the rights to catch, to sell, or to lease their quota.

    1.3.4 Counting Catches Against Quota

    During each fishing year, catches by quota holders are progressively counted against their quota holdings. To ensure compliance very comprehensive and strict reporting procedures need to be followed. Detailed reporting of catches at sea by permit holders and transfers onshore to licensed fish receivers ensure a robust documentation of catches and their distribution. Compliance with these reporting regimes is substantially based on auditing of these paper trails, although a range of other surveillance procedures are also used. Penalties for non-compliance or avoidance are severe, including forfeiture of quota and property upon conviction, and exclusion from the fishing industry. Test cases in the New Zealand courts have upheld the fisheries legislation, and for the most part, compliance levels are high.

    Where catches are taken in excess of quota holdings, the permit holder may purchase further quota, lease further quota or land catches against anothers quota holdings. To provide for instances where by catches exceed the holdings there are a number of options and defences available (see Chapter 6). Quota owners have additional flexibility to balance catches against quota holdings. In any year they can carry forward uncaught quota to the next year, providing it is not more than 10% of their holdings for that fishstock. Conversely they may take catches up to 10% more than their quota holdings, the additional amount of catch being deducted from their subsequent years catch entitlement.

    The QMS limits the total annual commercial catches from each fishstock to sustainable levels. Each ITQ holder is entitled to access their share of this total catch, with the flexibility to trade quota with other ITQ holders if more or less catch is required. This provides each quota holder with the opportunities and economic incentives to maximise income and minimise costs from their share of the annual catch.



    S28E (FA1983)

    Quota is allocated to those who hold commercial fishing permits on the date that species are introduced into the QMS. For most finfish this date was 18 September 1986. For paua, squid and jack mackerel (FMA7), it was 1 October 1987; for rock lobster it was 1 April 1990 and for southern scallops it was 1 October 1992. For any new species introduced into the QMS, 20% of the TACC is allocated to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. After making allocations of quota to Maori and to fishing permit holders, any balance of quota is retained by the Crown.

    Allocation of quota is based on each permit holder's catch history over the preceding years, this catch history determining each permit holder's pro-rata share of the TACC. Where a permit holder believes that such an allocation would be unfair, appeal provisions exist for a review of the amount and types of quota allocated.

    In 1986 stocks of a number of inshore fish species were considered to be depleted through over-fishing. To provide for these fishstocks to rebuild in size and for larger catches in future years, the initial TACCs for these fishstocks were set at low levels. Many inshore TACCs were set at below half the previous catch levels and some were set as low as 17%. In cases where the TACC was set at a level below the current commercial catch, the Government provided each permit holder the option of accepting compensation for the catch reductions prior to the introduction of ITQ.

    These voluntary compensated reductions in catches provided an option for those who wished to restructure or to leave the fishery. In most fishstocks, insufficient reductions were made and the balance of quota offered was proportionally reduced, without compensation, so that the total of ITQ allocated equalled the TACC.



    S13 to S14 (FA1996)

    The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) has a comprehensive fisheries research program in which The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited (NIWA) and other service providers are contracted to provide research advice on the nature and extent of fishstocks. Most of this research is aimed at determining population parameters for the main fisheries in New Zealand and at estimating current stock status in relation to maximum sustainable yield Maximum Sustainable Yield levels. Results from MFish contracted research projects are discussed annually by industry and Government scientists along with representatives of Maori, recreation and conservation groups. The culmination of this annual process is the production of a summary report detailing the current stock status for each fishstock and providing recommendations for sustainable yield levels.

    MFish uses this information as a basis for making TAC and TACC recommendations to the Minister after first consulting with sector interest groups.

    The Fisheries Act 1996 provides for set procedures to be followed in determining the TACCs for each fishstock. The Minister of Fisheries must now set both a total allowable catch (TAC) and a total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for each stock. For most stocks the benchmark to be used when setting or varying the TAC is the requirement to achieve a fishstock size that will produce the MSY. In practice this provides difficulties, as the MSY is a theoretical optimum which can seldom, if ever, be reached in practice. Invariably, the determination of MSY involves the modelling of fish population dynamics to calculate a theoretical optimum yield attainable over time. In reality there is a range of possible yields available from any population at the size that will produce MSY.

    Conversely, there is a range of population sizes that will produce sustainable yields at the size of the assessed MSY level.

    The Minister is required to set a TAC that will maintain the stock at or above a level that can produce the maximum sustainable yield, having regard to the interdependence of stocks. For stocks whose biomass is either considerably above or below the size that is assessed to produce the MSY, the Minister may take into account social, cultural and economic factors when considering the rate at which he will try to move the fishstock towards the size that will produce the MSY.

    After setting the TAC for each stock the Minister may set a TACC, after first considering the non commercial fishing interests for that stock and any other fishing mortality on that stock. Before setting or varying a TACC for any stock the Minister is required to consult representatives of Maori, environmental, commercial and recreational interest groups, and take into account any other specific restrictions to fishing.

    For most stocks, variations in TACCs are made by notice in The Gazette and come into force on the first day of the next fishing year (1 October for all species other than rock lobster which is 1 April). For specified species, listed in the Second Schedule to the Act (currently flatfishes and red cod), within season increases can be made. These are species whose abundance is considered to be highly variable from year to year and this procedure allows within season management in the event that high levels of stock abundance are established during the year.

    For a third group of species, listed in the Third Schedule (currently southern scallops and squid), the Minister is not restricted to the MSY benchmark when setting the TAC but can use any benchmark required to better achieve the purpose of the Act. This alternative TAC setting procedure provides for species where:

  • It is not possible to estimate MSY because of the biological characteristics of this species;

  • A catch limit for New Zealand has been determined as part of an international agreement;

  • The stock is managed on a rotational or enhanced basis.



    S66 (FA1983)

    The ability to accurately monitor catch levels and balance these against quota holdings is critical to the success of the QMS. MFish has established procedures to monitor and enforce the QMS based on a system that tracks the flow of fish and fish products from the catcher to the purchaser and then to reconcile these catches with quota holdings.

    Under the QMS, fishing permit holders are required to provide detailed catch reports, along with additional information on Catch and Effort Landing Returns (CELRs) and Quota Management Reports (QMRs). Quota holders are required to reconcile catches against their quota holdings at the end of each month in their QMR. QMRs are required to be completed by all quota holders, whether they own the quota or hold it on lease/sub-lease. Fishing Permit holders are required to complete a CELR at the end of each fishing trip to record catch details (including vessel, location, species and quantities), which quota the catches are to be counted against and to whom the fish is sold. Generally the skipper of the fishing vessel completes this return.

    S67 (FA1983)

    Under the QMS, commercial fishing permit holders are restricted to selling fish to licensed wholesalers/processors called Licensed Fish Receivers (LFRs). The LFRs are also required to provide monthly reports on how much fish they receive from each permit holder and to provide them with purchase invoices when they purchase fish.

    This range of detailed reports enables MFish to monitor catches against quota in the QMS. By auditing such records kept by permit holders, quota holders and LFRs, checks are maintained that landed catches are correctly taken against quota holdings.



    During the mid 1980s Maori claimants argued before the Crown, the Waitangi Tribunal and the Courts that the guarantee of "full, exclusive and undisturbed possession..................of their fisheries" contained in the Treaty of Waitangi had not been honoured. Both the Waitangi Tribunal and the Government have agreed that there was substance to these claims and that redress was required.

    After extensive negotiations between the Crown and Maori principals (representing the claimants), the Crown offered a package on the basis that it forms the full and final settlement of Maori claims to sea fisheries. This package contains the following components:

  • 10% of all existing ITQs.
  • 20% of any TACC for any additional fishstock brought into the QMS.
  • Funding for Maori to purchase 50% of Sealord Products Ltd.
  • Procedures to manage identified traditional fishing areas and to develop customary fishing regulations.

    These matters are provided for in the Maori Fisheries Act 1989 and the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992.

    The Maori Fisheries Act 1989 as was promulgated; to make better provision for the recognition of Maori fishing rights secured by the Treaty of Waitangi; The Act established the Maori Fisheries Commission to receive 10% of ITQs and to assist Maori to develop into commercial fishing.

    The Commission has since been restructured as the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission after a change to a broader role promoted with the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act in December 1992.

    The principal functions of the Commission include:

  • To facilitate the entry of Maori into, and the development by Maori of, the business and activity of fishing;

  • To grant assistance to any Maori or group of Maori for the purpose of enabling entry in to or continuance in or development of the business and activity of fishing;

  • To consider how best to give effect to the resolutions in respect of the Commission's assets adopted at the hui-a-tau on 25 July 1992;

  • To develop, after full consultation with Maori, proposals for a new Maori Fisheries Act that is consistent with the Deed of Settlement;

  • To propose, for consideration by Maori, provisions and a process for the Commission's accountability to Maori.

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