SeaSense Report

The SeaSense report was prepared in 2001 for the Ministry of Fisheries to inform them in the development of their Environmental Management Strategy (EMS). As part of the process of developing the Strategy, the Ministry commissioned ECO and Forest and Bird to:

  • Identify and describe the nature of New Zealand environmental stakeholder concerns about the management of fisheries-related impacts on the aquatic environment;


  • Rank these concerns in order of importance to environmental stakeholders;


  • Identify the appropriate balance between protection and use of fishery resources required to address these concerns, noting the rationale for and implications of this balance; and


  • Identify opportunities for environmental stakeholders to work with tangata whenua and other fishery stakeholders to achieve shared environmental goals.

ECO and Forest and Bird agreed to collaborate on this project to build on the shared goals of the two organisations and make more effective use of the funding available from the Ministry.

Consultation undertaken

To provide the opportunity for comment on the above issues, ECO and Forest and Bird prepared and circulated an 11-page discussion paper and a four-page questionnaire to over 500 members. In addition, a series of three-four hour workshops were held around the country in:

  • Wanganui (ECO Annual Conference, 26 August)
  • Wellington (1 November)
  • Auckland (3 November)
  • Bay of Islands (4 November)
  • Nelson (7 November)
  • Christchurch (10 November)
  • Dunedin (11 November)
  • Gisborne (12 November)
  • Wanganui (Forest and Bird Council Meeting, 18 November)

A final report was then prepared which had a commentary on the issues, responses received and recommendations.


The Recommendations on the Ministry’s Environmental Management Strategy were:

1.   The Strategy should provide the overview of the environmental management approach for the Ministry of Fisheries. Any management plans, regulations and other measures should be subject to the strategy.

2.  The Ministry should adopt best practice measures to avoid or mitigate the effects of fishing on the aquatic environment.

3.  Decisions regarding fisheries management must be made through an open process that fosters collective decision-making and recognises divergent interests and values.

4.  Fisheries policy and planning processes need to be reviewed, with particular reference to the processes established under the Conservation Act and RMA.

5. The Ministry should adopt the following principles for environmental management:

  • Spatial, ecotypes and impacts policy and planning;
  • A precautionary approach
  • Open public participation processes
  • Independent monitoring and research
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Protection of non-extractive use values
  • Recognition of common property right in the ocean
  • Reversal of the onus of proof
  • Protection of taonga recognised under the Treaty:

6.  A key part of any environmental management strategy must be to significantly increase the amount of research funding to assess impacts of fishing on the aquatic environment.

7.  The Strategy should adopt the following key approaches to management:

  • Retain government control and administration of fisheries management, research, planning and enforcement;
  • Introduce requirements for the assessment of the host environment and the environmental impacts of fishing;
  • Ensure fisheries are managed according to the precautionary principle so that:
    (a)  depleted fish stocks are rebuilt through more effective and timely controls or area closures;
    (b)  all fish stocks are managed to ensure populations do not fall significantly below  those that maintain trophic and other ecosystem relationships;
    (c)  fishing is strictly limited or not permitted for fish stocks for which information on populations levels or fishing impacts is absent, seriously inadequate or indicates significant adverse effects.
  • End fishing practices that cause significant adverse effects on the marine environment including an end to the use of set nets and bottom trawls;
  • Reduce seabird and marine mammal deaths resulting from fishing to negligible levels approaching zero;
  • Remove barriers to public participation and provide assistance to empower the public to take part in fisheries processes;
  • Develop a system of representative marine reserves and other controls to avoid, or mitigate the effects of fishing on the marine environment.

8.   Establish an Environmental Directorate or Division within the Ministry of Fisheries: A strong and sizeable environmental directorate is required.

9.  Establish Environmental Management Advisory Groups organised around environmental types and places and problems.

10.  Hold a two to three day workshop of people with an interest in working through the issues that need to be addressed in designing the EMS.


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