The Ministry for Primary Industries and New Zealand's big three fishing companies have joined forces to develop a new "Tiaki" category of premium seafood aimed at sustainability of the fishery and adding traceability so that consumers can find out where their fish came from and how it was caught.
The parties said Tiaki - which in English means to care and protect - is set to join wagyu beef, organic chicken and free range eggs as a premium product harvested along more sustainable lines.
Consumers will soon be able to choose-Tiaki caught fish, and use their smart phone to see where and how it was caught, they said in a joint statement. Fishing the Tiaki way replaces traditional trawl nets with modular harvesting systems, a more sustainable way of fishing producing higher quality seafood.
In the inshore fishery, Tiaki-caught fish are brought on board alive, swimming in water and in good condition. There is also the potential for undersized or unintended catch to be returned to the sea with a much higher survival rate.
In deep water, for species such as alfonsino or hoki, the new technology is aimed at reducing the damage to the fish, increasing the quality and adding value to the catch.
Tiaki is the latest stage in the six-year Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) between the Ministry for Primary Industries, Sanford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries - representing a combined investment of $48 million - which was launched in 2012.
"What it is going to show to consumers in New Zealand and around the world is that we value our provenance story, we value the sustainability of our fishing stocks, and we have a story that we can tell the world of how these fish have been caught sustainably," the ministry's director-general Martyn Dunne said.
This is a changing world, people are demanding to know where their seafood comes from and they are demanding that we care for the stocks of fisheries that we fish.
Programme manager for Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH), Dave Woods, said there was increasing demand from consumers to know where their food comes from and the methods used to harvest it. PSH, a fishing system aimed at improved survival rates for unintended catch, was developed by Plant & Food Research, a crown research institute, based in Nelson.
"This is a changing world, people are demanding to know where their seafood comes from and they are demanding that we care for the stocks of fisheries that we fish," Woods said.
Tiaki-caught fish will come with its own traceability app meaning consumers can quickly find out more about where and how their fish was caught using their smartphone.
NZX-listed Sanford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fisheries all currently have crews fishing the Tiaki way - with a combination of deep sea and inshore fisheries - catching hoki, alfonsino, snapper, gurnard, john dory, trevally and kingfish.
Tiaki-caught fish will be available in limited quantities under the Tiaki brand in Auckland later this year.
Sealord chief Steve Yung said capitalising on the demand domestically and worldwide for premium seafood is important for industry. Sealord is half-owned by Maori, through Aotearoa Fisheries, and half-owned by the Japanese fishing company Nissui.