Fishing practices everyone’s responsibility
1 February 2008
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton today reminded the fishing industry that it, as well as the government, should be taking responsibility for monitoring the conduct of foreign charter vessels.
“The debate following the accidental and unfortunate death of 22 common dolphins in the jack mackerel trawl fishery in December, has focused on the use of foreign charter fishing vessels,” Jim Anderton said.
“I’d like to remind the fishing industry that these foreign charter vessels were charted by New Zealand companies for the benefit of those New Zealand companies, so were legitimately fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Those who contract them bear just as much responsibility as any government agency in ensuring appropriate practices.”
Following news of the dolphin deaths, both the NZ Federation of commercial Fishermen and New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone have put out media statements calling for “a much tougher approach on all governance issues surrounding foreign charters”.
“Under the Quota Management System, New Zealand fishing companies and quota owners are free to choose how they catch their fish. Some companies choose to charter foreign vessels,” Jim Anderton said.
“Since we allow these vessels to fish in our EEZ, we must be sure that they understand and comply with all our fishing regulations. And that is everybody’s responsibility. But Pita Paraone is being simplistic when he says that the dolphin deaths ‘could have been prevented if foreign fishing boats faced tougher regulations and penalties in New Zealand waters’. Dolphins are attracted to jack mackerel fisheries and they are sometimes caught. At least two of the vessels involved in the recent incident stopped fishing as soon as they realised that dolphins had got caught up in the their nets.”
“I have discussed the issue of foreign charter vessels with many within the industry, I understand that the commercial fishing industry is not of one mind over their use, but in fact the vast majority of deepwater and middle depth fisheries quota owners support their use.
“As I have said before, if the industry collectively agrees that a debate over the use of foreign charter vessels is worth having,” Jim Anderton said, “then I am happy to have it.”
Foreign charter vessels operating in New Zealand’s EEZ are already regulated by the Ministry of Fisheries, the Department of Labour, the Department of Immigration, and Maritime New Zealand.
Foreign vessels are required to be registered with the Ministry of Fisheries and for a company to be able to employ foreign crews, the Minister of Immigration must first be satisfied that no New Zealanders are available to do the work. The wages offered must be comparable to New Zealand rates so that foreign crews cannot be used as a source of cheap labour.
Chartered foreign vessels are not allowed, by law, to fish within New Zealand’s territorial waters, which go out from the shoreline to 12 nautical miles.
In October last year, Jim Anderton instructed the Ministry of Fisheries to review the management and administration of foreign charter vessels to ensure they comply with fishing regulations and pose no threat to the sustainability of our fisheries and environment.
The Ministry has developed a list of measures to improve the management of these vessels.
These measures include increased observer coverage, particularly in fisheries where by-catch is a risk, increased safety monitoring and tighter registration requirements. The Ministry will begin consulting with the fishing industry on these measures in February. The intention is to have new measures in place by June 2008.