The government won't compensate commercial fishing companies for lost catch in the proposed Kermadec ocean sanctuary, in what it sees as holding "very little viable commercial fishing."
At the UN General Assembly in New York, Prime Minister John Key announced plans to create a 620,00sq km ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec Islands region, spanning about 15% of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone and preserving habitats for the area's 39 different species of seabirds, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of endangered turtles and thousands of species of fish.
Among the commercial impacts of creating the sanctuary are the prohibition of commercial and recreational fishing and related tourism, and banning of resource prospecting, exploration and mining.
"It's got about $180,000 worth of fishing and the prospectivity for minerals is a big unknown," said Bronwen Golder from the Pew Environment Group, which spearheaded the Kermadec sanctuary. "The value of protection for New Zealand is greater."
A cabinet paper signed off by Environment Minister Nick Smith on September 10 estimated the annual value of fisheries in the region to be about $165,000 from a 20.1 million tonne catch. That's a fraction of New Zealand's annual fishing exports of $1.44 billion, which the paper says "reinforces that although the area is 15% of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, there is currently very little viable commercial fishing."
All of the species caught are regarded as being highly migratory, meaning they aren't permanent residents in the region, and Dr Smith proposed no compensation be paid to quota owners because the sanctuary has been built for sustainability purposes. That's in line with existing legislation, and "those fishers currently operating in FMA10 (the Kermadec Fisheries Management Area) target exclusive economic zone-wide HMS (highly migratory species) stocks that can be taken effectively in other areas."
A nominal quota set up to cover the discovery of commercially viable fisheries hasn't been allocated and is held by the Crown and Te Ohu Kai Moana. Those permits also won't be paid compensation as they have no value, the paper said.
"There will be an impact on fisheries but this will be very small due to the existing protections in the area and the fact that most of the fishing that does occur can take place elsewhere in the exclusive economic zone," the paper said.
In a statement, industry lobby group Seafood NZ said it was working through the implications of the sanctuary, which had been announced without warning.
The cabinet paper said the exclusion of the area from mining and prospecting would reduce a prospecting permit applied for by Nautilus Minerals NZ by about 44%, though, because the application was still under review, officials could work with the company to revise the prospect area.
"Officials consider that the remaining application outside the sanctuary is prospective and offers an attractive investment opportunity," the paper said. "In more recent discussions Nautilus has also indicated interest in additional acreage in the southern part of the current reservation (outside the proposed sanctuary)."
The Environmental Defence Society welcomed the sanctuary as "a major achievement" but said the government still had plenty of work to do on oceans policy.
"What the government has yet to resolve is the reform of our oceans legislation to enable marine protected areas to be established throughout New Zealand's ocean realm."
By applying new legislation to the exclusive economic zone, "a proper programme of spatial protection can be applied to the bulk of New Zealand's oceans," EDS policy director Raewyn Peart said in a statement.
"This will help to provide greater certainty for the petroleum and minerals industries as well as for the environment," she said.