Te Ohu Kaimoana chair Jamie Tuuta said the 1992 Maori Fisheries Settlement (the Sealord deal) confirmed an ongoing relationship between the Crown and iwi over fisheries matters.
"The fisheries settlement isn't done, it isn't in the past," Tuuta said.
"Riding roughshod over these agreements and making unilateral decisions that affect our future are to be met with strenuous objection.
"Which is to say, in Ngapuhi vernacular, a punch-up."
It was a belated recognition of those rights that led to the proposed Kermadecs ocean sanctuary, announced without consultation by Prime Minister John Key at the United Nations, being put on hold.
Maori Party co-leader and Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell told the conference his party came close to walking out of its coalition agreement with the Government over the Kermadecs.
He said the issue was now stalled until after this year's election and there was no appetite to bring it back beforehand.
"When you stand on principle you come out on the right side," he said.
"At stake was every Treaty settlement."
Tuuta said Maori had taken their eye off the ball in defending their rights and the conference sought to redress that with the theme wa muri ka oti amua - to understand the past is to know the future.
"The properties of the Quota Management System - perpetuity, security and sustainability - were the incentives Maori required for long-term management, recognising that future generations would benefit or otherwise from the actions of the current generation," he said.
"The quota represented a right to fish in perpetuity, which is what Maori sought and the Maori Fisheries Settlement was the result.
"Maori endorsed the QMS in 1992 as a suitable regime for the sustainable management of commercial fisheries. It is the only fisheries management regime that has been agreed and endorsed by Maori.
"There is no other.
"The fisheries settlement was the beginning of a collective iwi economic awakening and revitalisation for Maori.
"If the settlement is worth anything at all, it's worth fighting for."
The conference at the Tainui-owned Novotel Hotel in Auckland on Wednesday, attended by 340 delegates including over 40 iwi representatives, had a wide-ranging agenda that included the economy, environment and politics.
Sir Tipene O'Regan, one of the four original Maori fisheries negotiators, said there was always chicanery, malevolence and general nastiness in every Cabinet but there is a strain within pakeha politics of political and constitutional decency. This was epitomised by former Attorney-General Sir Geoffrey Palmer who supported the Maori claim.
"We have memory, the Crown doesn't, it has a lobotomy every three years."
He said Maori had enough economic strength to set the agenda but needed to determine where they wanted to go.
Iwi Collective Partnership general manager Maru Samuels had a message for environmental lobby groups and Government.
Environmental NGOs should stop side-stepping Maori commercial fisheries and instead work in partnership.
And the Government had to engage the treaty partner on all law and policy impacting on the fisheries settlement.
Trade was on the menu this week with the visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
So too were trios of steamed Coromandel green-lipped mussels served on slices of venison marinated in Shaoxing rice wine.
That was at a highly choreographed lunch for 500 guests in Auckland on Tuesday hosted by Prime Minister Bill English in honour of our major trading partner and number one seafood export market.
Symbolism and partnership were the themes.
Thus the King Country beef tenderloin main course was paired with caramelised ginger Sichuan peppers, Chinese eggplant and black garlic purée, shiitake mushrooms and Tientsin cabbage.
Maori warriors and waiata mingled with an undulating orange dragon and drummers and a duet from Bizet's Pearl Fishers was sung by east and west - Clinton Fung and Filipe Manu.
Premier Li was conciliatory towards the US, threatening to be more protectionist under President Trump, saying the shared interests outweighed the differences and that was good for New Zealand and Australian interests as well.
Formal talks on upgrading the eight-year-old free trade agreement between the two countries, China's first with a developed country, will begin later next month.
Trade Minister Todd McClay has formed a ministerial advisory group to allow greater input and communication in formulating the trade agenda.
The 23-member group includes Seafood New Zealand.