Publication of Catch Data 128(1)(g)

This is a case where the law is ambiguous.

The interpretation being taken by MFish is that all catches should be published each month, for each fisher. For fishers with large fleets (like Sanford) this poses little threat to privacy. For fishers with smaller fleets there is considerable commercial sensitivity about catch information. The information is sensitive both with respect to catching, and to marketing of product. Some mid range companies stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bargaining power this information gives the purchasers of their product. Other smaller individuals stand to lose through disclosure to competitors on the water. There appears to be no significant gains for these losses.

There is no objection to disclosure of the aggregate catch data, as is done through the Ministry’s "Blue book" publication at present. This is how most in industry interpreted the section to read.

It was quite probably me who first proposed the notion of making catch information public - this was in about 1992 (from memory which is a bit hazy).

The proposal was part of a package which included many parts. It was initially rejected by the ministry, but later re-appear, transformed.

The reporting part of my proposal was for disclosure of annual catch, after the last report for the year. A part of it was an extension of the time for trading by two weeks, to allow people to mop up those little bits and pieces of ACE that currently account for around 3% of the TACC in many stocks.

The ACE system I proposed had ecological integrity, and maintained confidentiality of catches (within a year).

The reality of trading within a year is - yes it happens, and most of it is "reciprocal arrangements" - with fishers fishing into Fish Receivers, or organisations doing swaps. Very little real trading happens until everyone knows what they have caught. Real trading starts in September - always has and always will.

There are problems with policy formation. So many structural changes to policy occur between consultation with industry and production of law, that what appears at the end is often incoherent - but too many people have invested too much in it to acknowledge that fact. Many of those within industry who are involved in the consultation (a small number of very active players) have no incentive maximise fishers economic performance (they'd rather maximise their own).


Unfortunately that is the reality of the Fisheries Act 1996 - with all of it's amendments.


Technically - it is quite fixable.

Politically - within the MFish bureaucracy, and the fisheries bureaucracy, it is unlikely to happen, unless someone drives it from without.