Only New Zealanders or New Zealand-owned companies can own fishing quota in New Zealand. Foreign ownership of shares in New Zealand quota-owning companies is strictly limited. However quota holders can lease foreign vessels to catch their allowance on their behalf.
Small quota owners (especially in inshore fisheries) often sold their quotas to bigger companies in the 1990s. In the 2000s the industry was led by Sealord Fisheries, Sanford, and Talleys.
Māori commercial fisheries settlement
The biggest change since the quota system was introduced in 1986 has been the emergence of Māori as a major industry player. This occurred when the Crown settled Māori commercial fishing claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1989 an interim agreement was reached, and the Crown transferred 10% of the quota (some 60,000 tonnes) together with shareholdings in fishing companies and $50 million in cash to the Waitangi Fisheries Commission. This commission was responsible for holding the fisheries assets on behalf of Māori until an agreement was reached as to how the assets were to be shared among tribes.
In 1992, a second part of the deal, referred to as the Sealord deal, marked full and final settlement of Māori commercial fishing claims under the Treaty of Waitangi. This included 50% of Sealord Fisheries and 20% of all new species brought under the quota system, more shares in fishing companies, and $18 million in cash.
In 2003, agreement was reached as to how the assets would be shared. Over 90% of tribes agreed with a proposal that held 50% of assets centrally and allocated the rest directly to tribes based on coastline length and tribal populations.
In 2004 a governance body, Te Ohu Kaimoana, was set up to oversee all Māori commercial fishing settlement assets. Since 1992 the value of these assets had tripled in value, to around $750 million in 2004. About $350 million, representing around a third of New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry, was to be administered under a company called Aotearoa Fisheries.