Fishing companies may work together

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 07:42 15/08/2014

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Two of New Zealand's largest fishing companies have denied they are considering merging.

Auckland-based Sanford Fishing and Nelson-based Sealord were this week reported to be in talks to consolidate their fishing efforts.

But Sanford chief executive Volker Kuntzsch told Undercurrent News the two companies had discussed only combined quotas on certain vessels.

"A merger isn't on the agenda," he said.

Merger speculation came in the wake of the death last month of the patriarch of Sanford, William Douglas Goodfellow.

Once New Zealand's richest man, Goodfellow was chairman of Sanford for 30 years.

Sealord told Undercurrent that it was building a good record of collaboration with Sanford as a way of addressing the headwind created by the strong New Zealand dollar.

"Sealord works with all of our peers in a number of tangible ways including precision seafood harvesting (a primary growth partnership with the New Zealand Government, Aotearoa Fisheries and Sanford) and recent long-term fishing deals with Tainui and Ngati Kahungunu," Sealord said.

"We are always looking for opportunities to make better use of our assets and these conversations with Sanford are part of this."

Sanford inshore fisheries manager Shane Walsh told delegates to the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society's annual conference this week that he had been at a meeting at Sealord.

"We were talking about why do we have all these vessels catching hoki? Why don't we work together and create a one fleet-type approach?" Walsh said.

"It's about increasing efficiencies, but working with other people to achieve that."

Sealord fishing general manager Doug Paulin told Fairfax Media both companies had excess fishing capacity.

Consolidating their fleets would be "a huge opportunity to save costs in a pretty tough industry at the moment".

While fishing was "as good as it's ever been", the industry was faced with an unfavourable exchange rate and commodity pricing of fish that was "not really going up", with margins being squeezed, Paulin said.

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