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Minister slams National's ignorance

13 January, 2005

Minister slams National's ignorance of fisheries enforcement issues

A 40% increase in the number of Fisheries compliance staff since Labour became Government, with future growth already signalled, shows the Government's commitment to protecting our fisheries.

Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope slammed as ill-informed scaremongering claims by the National Party that beaches were being closed for the gathering of shell-fish because of staffing issues.

Mr Benson-Pope says the number of compliance staff has increased by 40% from 113 in 1999 to 159 in 2004. Recently the Ministry of Fisheries signalled that the compliance unit would grow a further 15% in the coming year alone.

The Ministry also announced the establishment of three highly mobile investigation teams to be based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Since July 1999, the Ministry of Fisheries has opened six new regional offices in Whitianga, Opotiki, Hamilton, Masterton, Petone and Blenheim.

"We are committed to protecting our marine environment," says Mr Benson-Pope. "Unlike National we don't just talk the talk. We have invested in more staff, more offices, more equipment and we are getting results."

Mr Benson-Pope pointed out fisheries enforcement, a core activity, received a 15% ($3million) increase from last year bringing it to $24million annually. Over an extra $1million has been allocated to build capacity in the Serious Offences Unit.

Mr Benson-Pope says it appears that some are opportunistically trying to link sustainability measures taken at beaches with enforcement capacity issues. He says only 12 specific coastal locations have been closed, or partially closed, to the gathering of shell fish, which for a coastline as large as New Zealand's was quite remarkable in terms of sustainable management.

"The closure of a small number of beaches for the taking of shell fish or other aquatic life has little to do with fisheries compliance," said the Minister. "Closures have followed requests from local communities concerned that despite the public only taking the lawful limit, the beach has not been able to sustain this take.

"This is sensible management of our fisheries resource. The lowering of national daily bag limits for different shell fish species would unfairly impact on all New Zealanders and a local response is the correct one where the sustainability issue is a local one."

ENDS

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