New Zealand has a large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that contains a variety of marine habitats and commercially-important species. The commercial fishing industry operating within New Zealand's EEZ is of significant value to the economy and fisheries resources are managed through the extensive use of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs). One of the benefits of ITQs has been to better align some of the private incentives of quota owners with the public interest. These incentives contributed to an initiative proposed by the fishing industry to close large areas of New Zealand's EEZ to protect the seabed from trawling. These closed areas are termed benthic protection areas (BPAs) and protect the benthic biodiversity of about 1.1 million square kilometres of seabed—approximately 30% of New Zealand's EEZ. A significant proportion of New Zealand's known seamounts and active hydrothermal vents are protected by these closed areas. We describe and discuss the criteria used to select BPAs and some of the criticism of this marine protection initiative. We argue that the assignment of strong property rights in fishing resources was an important precondition to an industry initiative that has a significant public benefit. Where private and public interests are well aligned, government can adopt an enabling and facilitation role, ceding direct control of processes in order to get the results the align with the public interest.
Marine Policy – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2010
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