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Environmental indicator for marine: fishing activity

This section provides information on the state of New Zealand’s marine environment, using the fishing activity environmental indicator.

New Zealand’s marine environment and fisheries resources are highly valued economically, recreationally, culturally and environmentally. Amongst human activities affecting our oceans, commercial fishing and trawling are thought to have the greatest overall impact.

Large-scale commercial fishing can have ecological effects, such as destroying habitats or depleting fish populations. Both of these effects have long-term impacts on marine ecosystems, including on the marine food chain. Bycatch (the unintended catch of species other than the target species) also puts pressure on the populations of marine species.

It is common practice internationally to report fishing activity as a measure of the scale of human impact on the marine environment.

The fishing activity indicator reports two main aspects:

  • fish stocks under the Quota Management System
  • seabed trawling in deep waters.

An Environmental Reporting Bill was introduced in Parliament in February 2014. The Bill introduces a new set of five domains we will use to report on the state of New Zealand's environment: air, atmosphere and climate, land, fresh water, and marine. If the Bill is passed, the indicators we use to report on each domain will change. This page will be updated to reflect the new indicators once they are finalised.

Indicator updates

Limitations of the fishing activity indicator

The fishing activity indicator does not measure:

  • the environmental effects of fishing and trawling on marine ecosystems
  • the effects from fishing activities on fish species that are not within the Quota Management System.

Only seabed trawling and the amount of trawl effort is reported. No information is available at the national level on the impact of the trawl on the sea floor environment. Also most small vessels do not have to complete Trawl Catch Effort Processing Returns, so an estimated 3.5 million dredges and trawls are not reported.

Other environmental indicators for marine

Fishing activity is one of two indicators we use to report on the state of New Zealand’s marine environment. The other indicator is marine areas with legal protection. We use the suitability for swmming indicator to report on one of the values associated with coastal waters.

Last updated: 20 February 2014