CAFCA - Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa

Foreign investment in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Overseas Investment Office - December 2023 Decision

"Takeover Creates NZ's Biggest Fisheries Company"

The OIO approved Sealord Group Limited New Zealand (50%) Japan (37%), Various (13%) buying Independent Fisheries Holdings Limited (IFHL), Independent Fisheries Limited (IFL) and Staunton Investments Limited (SIL) New Zealand (100%). The specifics of the purchase were:

  • "100% of the shares in Independent Fisheries Limited (IFL)
  • Annual catch entitlement (ACE) of IFL and Independent Fisheries Holdings Limited (IFHL)
  • IFHL's fishing quota
  • Lease interest in premises at 15 Dublin Street, Lyttleton (sic)
  • Cold store assets held by Staunton Investments Limited (including land, buildings, plant and machinery) located at 17 Broad Street, Woolston, Christchurch
  • Business records relating to the above".

The OIO explained: "The Applicant is a New Zealand company which is one of the largest seafood businesses in the Southern Hemisphere, with fishing and aquaculture operations in New Zealand, Australia and the Southern Indian Ocean. The Applicant is ultimately 50% owned by Aotearoa Fisheries Limited (100% iwi owned) and 50% owned by Nissui Corporation (a listed Japanese company)".

"The Applicant has been granted consent to acquire 100% of the shares in IFL, together with various assets of IFL, IFHL and SIL (which are all related parties). IFL will become a subsidiary of the Applicant. The transaction was cleared by the Commerce Commission on 13 November 2023. Consent was granted as the Applicant has met the investor test criterion. The Applicant is acquiring the fishing quota in reliance on permission granted in 2001 by the Overseas Investment Commission (and therefore no separate consent is required)". The purchase price has been withheld.

"Sealord, a joint venture between Māori-owned Moana New Zealand and Japanese seafood company Nissui Corp, said when announcing the deal in September (2023) that it was set to be the largest financial transaction in the seafood sector since the $150 million Treaty of Waitangi fisheries settlement under which Māori gained their Sealord stake" (in 1992. Ed.).

"The deal would see Sealord acquire about 46,000 metric tonne of fishing quota from Christchurch-based Independent Fisheries. Adding that to its own 110,000 tonnes of quota would see the combined business overtake fishing company Sanford as the country's largest holder of fishing quota. Sealord employs more than 1,000 people in New Zealand and 230 people overseas".

"The deal would see it add more than 500 vessel crew and staff, two owned and one chartered deepwater factory fishing vessels, and a cold storage facility" (Press, 15/11/23, Tina Morrison).

Sealord's Chequered History

Sealord featured in one of the most notorious Decisions of the OIO's predecessor, the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC). This was written up in great detail by Bill Rosenberg in Watchdog 95 (December 2000, Sealord Sale: OIC Exposed. The Full Story Behind The Government's Refusal To Allow Brierley's To Sell Its Sealord Stake Offshore")

James Ayers updated this in his write up of the September 2012 OIO Decisions: "Sealord has had a chequered history when it comes to sustainable fish management. The latest controversy was reported by Susan Nordquist of TV3's 3 News (10/3/13). 'Sealord is under fire for putting a tuna on the brink of being overfished in cans and marketing it as a premium product'. ITM Fishing Show host Matt Watson is calling for compulsory labelling to show how tuna is caught and a boycott of all Sealord products".

"Sealord calls this its' best tasting tuna yet, but opponents say its television advertisement is irresponsible. 'I think it's incredibly arrogant or ignorant - ignorant of the state of the yellowfin tuna fishery', says Mr Watson. That's because yellowfin tuna is the on the brink of being overfished. 'Ten years ago, I would go out and I'd expect to catch a yellowfin tuna over the summer months', says Mr Watson. 'Now I would be surprised to lay eyes on one'".

"But Mr Watson says Sealord has little interest in conserving yellowfin tuna because of its commercial value. 'I think they're relying on the New Zealand consumer about being ill-informed about which fish are sustainable'. The New Zealand Sports Fishing Council says yellowfin tuna stocks are half of what they were in 1990. But Sealord says stocks of yellowfin tuna in the Western Pacific are fine. It told 3 News in a statement it's trying to reduce the amount of yellowfin tuna it sells and is also working to reduce its bycatch rate to less than 1% of catch. But it also pointed out New Zealanders eat less than 0.5% of the world's canned tuna".

"Greenpeace says part of the problem is Sealord's reliance on fish aggregating devices - a type of float used to lure marlin and tuna but which wipes out young tuna and other ocean life too. 'There's a much higher bycatch of other ocean life, including sharks, turtles and, quite importantly, juvenile tuna', says Karli Thomas of Greenpeace. 'These are more vulnerable species, like big-eye and yellowfin'. Ms Watson says it's up to consumers to drive change. 'You need to hit them in the pocket', she says. 'You need to stop buying their products and hopefully force their hand to change their ways'. That needs to happen before, Ms Watson says, yellowfin tuna disappears from New Zealand waters altogether".

No Friend Of Workers

Nor does Sealord have a good record when it comes to treatment of its workers. "In August 2011 the (former) Service and Food Workers' Union (SFWU) presented a 12,000-signature petition to Parliament in support of New Zealand jobs and fair workplace treatment in the fishing industry. Media reports quoted SFWU member Victor Norman, who has worked in the fishing industry for more than 17 years, telling the Primary Production Select Committee that workers in the industry are constantly being threatened to meet company demands or face losing their jobs to cheaper overseas labour".

"'That made them insecure and people were going to get sick of bad pay and having their rights ignored', Mr Norman said. Sealord would not give Mr Norman time to attend the Select Committee in Wellington. He came straight from a shift at the factory and was headed back to work after the hearing, without any time off for sleep".

"'If we can tighten up this fishing industry it'll stop them thinking about (going overseas), at the present moment they're abusing something that all New Zealanders own and that's the fish in the sea'" This was part of a longer article on the fishing industry in Watchdog 128 (December 2011, Victor Billot, "Net Closes On Fishing Industry Shame").

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Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa,
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