An ecosystem-based management (EBM) approach will be introduced to fisheries by 2020, according to Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash.

He told the Maori Fisheries conference in Auckland yesterday strong environmental performance will create added value. He conceded EBM meant different things to different people and he was aware it caused some discomfort.

He said brand New Zealand started as a tourism brand and was valued at adding $20 billion a year. "If we don't live that brand we run the risk of becoming another small economy selling commodities."

He said terms of reference for a review were still being decided but he could say what it was not - it was not a review of the Quota Management System and it was not a review of the Deed of Settlement. It would ask how we get to EBM and also whether that was what was wanted.

Fisheries New Zealand, to be a standalone business unit within the Ministry for Primary Industries, had been given a mandate of consulting in a meaningful way. It was about looking forward, not re-litigating the past. He said forestry and fisheries had not been well served by MPI and it needed to redeem its reputation.

Sir Tipene O'Regan, an architect of the Treaty settlements, said when he was young gay meant happy. Now he was seeing another change in the language, where ecosystem based management was sliding into biodiversity and evidence-based sustainability was being overlaid with ideology. He regarded this as "dangerously subversive". He advised Nash to nail a review to the principle of sustainability and leave ideology to the ideologists.

Nash noted that when he was young "nailing it" also meant something different. "We will not get captured by the ideology," he assured. "We all want the same thing, that is abundant fisheries."

Earlier, Seafood New Zealand and Ngai Tahu Seafood chair Craig Ellison called for greater collaboration across the sector. "We have great brands, a great brand story - but they are not really utilised to full value as yet," he said. "Your role as managers, directors, participants in this sector is to lead, and collaboration on the basis of shared values is the way forward."

He said the QMS had been under assault by the "illiterate left - those who I would describe as being almost culpable ignorant of the rationale, utility and importance of the QMS". It was built on the goal of sustainable utilisation, incorporating the key concepts of kaitiakatanga (guardianship), of respect of the treaty and of collective Maori mana.

"Is the QMS perfect? No, of course not. Does it need wholesale change? No."

Improvements could include electronic reporting on a much finer scale, flexible in-season management, fine scale management of smaller fish stocks, fallow field strategies and the adoption of fisheries plans for areas and stocks. All of these are possible under the existing system.