One Week In - What I See Already

New Seafood New Zealand CEO Lisa Futschek has only just got her feet under the desk, but she already has thoughts about the industry.

I'm writing this three days in, and already it is really clear to me that people who work in this sector are passionate about what they do. I managed to do a couple of site visits to Sanford and Moana when I was in Auckland last week, slightly before my official start date. My overwhelming impression? It is a professional, organised and focused sector, that knows where it needs to get to.

When I see that passion and focus, I feel a real determination to have that side of the industry better reflected in the media. I know we have had a hard time from the fourth estate and groups that are highly vocal against commercial fishing. But my overwhelming observation is of the tangible positive developments the sector has achieved from when I was last involved, some years ago. The emphasis on conservation, environmental sustainability and mitigation against unintended bycatch have grown substantially. It's such a positive change, which isn't yet reflected in the public commentary.

Also on the positive side, there are so many great stories to tell about what goes on in the fishing sector in Aotearoa. I'm looking forward to being one of the people to share those stories and I would encourage you to share your own stories, firstly with us at Seafood New Zealand.

The next few weeks will see me focusing on meeting as many people in the industry as I can. I will be in Southland later this month with our Seafood New Zealand Board. I also plan a trip to Nelson and further trips to Auckland. I definitely won't be traveling for the sake of traveling, but I am in sponge mode right now, and I want to absorb from you as much knowledge about this wonderful industry as you have time to share.

What I'm keen in particular to hear more about, is something else I observed on those Auckland site visits. I was able to tour the processing side of Moana's operation and I was seriously impressed by the innovation I saw and the way we are using technology to minimise waste and maximise value. I could see that everyone, from those on the machines to those in the Boardroom, is focusing on those fantastic values.

Let me also take a little time to introduce myself and explain where my own fascination with seafood comes from. My interest in fishing started on the recreational side when I was just six years old and I was roped in to helping my Dad, as he went trout fishing on the banks of the Clutha River. While my friends were asking Father Christmas for dolls and toys, I was asking for a fishing rod.

Seafood is so central to our culture as New Zealanders. It is also central to our economic success. When I was working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, I spent some time on the Primary Sector desk within the economic division there. My role included looking after international fisheries issues and negotiations. I found seafood a compelling and fascinating sector and my enthusiasm saw me nicknamed "the fish lady" by colleagues, who quickly got used to hearing me talk with great enthusiasm about everything I was learning as I immersed myself in the issues facing our sector.

I absolutely believe that seafood is a critically important contributor to New Zealand's economic wellbeing and that includes the wellbeing of the many communities in regional New Zealand which rely on us.

So if I am in your community in the coming weeks and months, I hope I will have a chance to talk to you. And if you are able to attend this year's Seafood New Zealand Conference in Auckland on August 7th and 8th, I would strongly encourage you to do so. It will be a great chance to talk and think about our future as a sector and we are reflecting that in our theme - Champions of Sustainability. I firmly believe that we can lay claim to being champions, not only of the sustainable utilisation of our oceans, but also champions of the communities we are based in, the people who harvest and process our kaimoana, and the consumers we nourish.

Thank you to those of you who have already shared your stories with me and who have welcomed me to Seafood New Zealand and into the sector. I hope to celebrate many more of your stories and successes as we work together to achieve the recognition I believe our industry deserves.

Note: Lisa's former roles include GM International at Education New Zealand, Deputy Head of Mission at the New Zealand Embassy in Berlin, and First Secretary and Consul at the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago.

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