Credit: Grace Caadiang

Posted on 01 July 2021

Seafood Magazine: Making tikanga Māori more evident in fishing practice

Shared with permission from Seafood New Zealand Magazine - June 2021:

When European settlers first arrived in Aotearoa, Māori embraced the opportunity to expand their commerical fishing trade and commerce, quickly establishing themselves as industry leaders.

“They were skilled fishermen, entrepreneurs and extremely good at trade and commerce as a means to provide for their whānau and hapū,” explains Maru Samuels, Tumuaki Rangatira CE of Iwi Collective Partnership and Director, Te Ohu Kaimoana. “There is ample evidence of their achievements recorded in Hansard parliamentary reports and even the diaries of James Cook – fishing with 900 metre long nets in 1769 and 1,792 waka supplying fish to the burgeoning city of Auckland in 1852 being just two examples.”

In the mid 1800s, things began to change. The expansion of European settlement created appetite for a greater share of the marine resources as well as land, and so to break the dominance of Māori commerce, new fisheries and marine laws were enacted that stripped Māori of their fishing rights. As well as destroying their livelihoods, the new Government policy severed for Māori their means to venture out to sea to practice and maintain a fishing way of life that had been passed down unbroken from generation to generation.

Today, the Fisheries Treaty Settlement has recognised to an extent those Māori commercial fishing rights and interests by allocating fisheries assets and quota to 58 iwi organisations nationally. Since passage of the Māori Fisheries Act 2004, many of the people representing iwi Māori fisheries have focused their part-time energies on relearning and educating themselves about the many environmental, social, economic, and cultural complexities of the New Zealand fishing industry.

“A bunch of those iwi decided in 2010 they would do better if they took on this challenge together, and so the Iwi Collective Partnership (ICP) was formed,” says Maru.

ICP is a collaboration of 19 like-minded iwi who believe that working together toward a common vision, based on shared Māori values, achieves better outcomes than working alone. Now with 10 years of operational learnings, the ICP is ready to move into a new phase to make their collective tikanga – Māori values, principles, practices and beliefs – more evident in their business, and in the way they exercise their collective fishing rights and interests.

The Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge has funded Kia tika te hī ika: Exploring fisheries tikanga and mātauranga, a two-year research project that will assist the ICP with the first step being to explore fishing tikanga amongst its iwi members.

“Why do some of us have a passion and feel responsible to transfer eel elvers up dams? What is our tikanga with respect to the seabed and the impacts of trawling, versus farming and gardening on dry land? These are just some of the many questions that will be explored through the research,” says Maru.

“Eventually we will create an innovative framework that fuses tikanga with the best of New Zealand fisheries science and management. The intention is to share that framework not only with all 58 iwi but with industry.”

Maru (in his capacity as Tumuaki Rangatira CE at ICP) and Irene Kereama-Royal (Ngā Wai A Te Tūī Māori & Indigenous Research Centre) are co-leading this rangahau (research), which began earlier this year.

“Māori who are at the forefront of any industry must encompass and utilise their mātauranga Māori to forge new innovation, to bring the past with them in new endeavours,” says Irene. “This project has the potential to check in with the legacy of traditional fisheries values and the aspirations of commercial fisheries management and practices in the future.”

As well as bringing cultural integrity to their business, Maru believes there is economic potential in a global brand proposition that is built on indigenous Māori tikanga and practice.

“I can’t give away too much about the commercial application, but we feel confident that there will be something worth commercialising later down the track; and those benefits could potentially be available to everyone.”

In addition, the tikanga insights gained through this project and other Sustainable Seas research could also support benefits beyond fisheries management. For example, the Whakaika te Moana project is investigating traditional hapū aquaculture practices.

“The potential impact of our research shouldn’t be underestimated,” says Irene. “A fisheries management approach that merges both tikanga and western practices has never been attempted before. The benefits are uniquely Aotearoa – and world-leading.”


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Kia tika te hī ika: Exploring fisheries tikanga and mātauranga
Credit: Chris Sisarich/NZ Story
Kia tika te hī ika: Exploring fisheries tikanga and mātauranga

Investigating the tikanga of ICP Iwi Partners as it relates to commercial fishing practice