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Media release: New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen marks 70 years of celebrating the voices of the country’s fishers

The New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen (Federation) celebrated 70 years of community advocacy and camaraderie in style with a conference and AGM at the Marlborough Events Centre in Blenheim on Thursday 1 June.

The Federation began in Lyttleton in late 1952, when a small group of fishers across the South Island gathered to form a ‘Federation of [fishing] Associations’. In 1958 the organisation expanded to include representatives from the North Island and was dubbed the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen (Inc).

Since then, the Federation has brought together thousands of passionate fishers from across the country to advocate for industry and environmental issues that affect New Zealand’s waters, fisheries, and regional economies.

Federation President Doug Saunders-Loder said the Federation plays an essential role in championing the voices of the country’s inshore fishers.

“This is the only organisation that puts the needs of this country’s small owner-operator fishers at the heart of everything it does. It has always prioritised giving a voice to the little guy.

“Over the years, the Federation has pushed for key reforms that benefit the environment and the industry, such as the creation of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and the creation of the Quota Management system in 1986, which has been about setting annual sustainability caps on catches. But it’s also an important way for people spending long, gruelling hours on the water to reconnect with friends across the country and feel like they are a part of something bigger.”

Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Rachel Brooking and Marlborough Mayor Nadine Taylor also attended the event. This was Minister Brooking’s first speech to an organisation in her ministerial role, and she spoke to the opportunities and challenges facing the industry, both environmental and regulatory.

“It is tough for a number of seafood businesses right now, and I know that smaller fishing operators in particular face challenges like rising costs, the impacts of the way we use land on the marine ecosystem; and difficulties getting access to skilled staff.

“Since becoming the Minister, I have been pleased to see the effort you’re making to fish more selectively – whether you’re tweaking your gear or changing your fishing practices.

“This is something the public doesn’t often see.”

The evening was capped with an annual charity auction to support the Shipwreck Welfare Trust, which provides immediate financial support to families affected by shipwrecks and mishaps at sea around the coast of New Zealand. In total, the auction raised $40,133 with a Time Zero Electronic package in particular going for $4,000.

Two well-deserved awards wrapped up the event. Federation member and trailblazing quota broker Donna Wells was awarded the Electronic Navigation Shield Award. Made of 2,000-year-old kauri and nearly a metre long, the trophy is given to someone who has gone above and beyond to support and promote the Federation. Donna has over 30 years of experience championing women in the seafood industry and promoting small, independent fishers who catch the high-quality fish for her Nelson-based company, Finestkind Ltd.

The second award was a surprise to Doug, in recognition of his tireless service to the Federation as president.

“On behalf of the Federation membership, the Executive Committee proposed Doug Saunders-Loder’s 20-year service as President be recognised at the evening auction event,” said Federation member Carol Scott.

“Doug and his wife, Jane, were presented with a three-day Air New Zealand Mystery Break. At the AGM, the meeting unanimously agreed to provide Doug with Life Membership in recognition of his 20-year representation of the Federation on numerous matters.”

Doug said, “We are experiencing increasingly difficult times, and it is often hard to achieve meaningful outcomes but it was evident from the tone of the conference that the Federation needs to remain in the fight.

“With a new up-and-coming crowd of passionate young fishers, I can’t wait to see what the next 70 years will bring.”

For more information on the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen, visit



Media Contact

Claire Williamson
Publik Agency
[email protected]