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National out of its depth with fisheries policy

16 June 2005

National out of its depth with fisheries policy

The National Party's fisheries policy shows they are seriously out of their depth on important marine issues, says Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says on aspects like compliance and enforcement National seem unaware of recent major initiatives; in fisheries management they have their facts wrong; and on some of the most important issues facing us today – bottom trawling; initiatives to reduce the deaths of sea birds and marine mammals; and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – they are silent, sunk without trace.

"National is clearly all at sea when it comes to fisheries management," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Their approach is ill-informed, illogical and seems to be advocating preferential treatment for industry over other stakeholders. No wonder National slipped their fisheries policy out with no fanfare.

"New Zealand's quota management system is a world leading fisheries regime. It is internationally recognised for ensuring the long-term sustainability of our fisheries, while facilitating a multi-million dollar export industry. National's hints that they would dismantle this framework are truly alarming.

"On compliance issues we are already delivering," says Mr Benson-Pope. "Under Labour there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of Fisheries compliance staff since 1999 reflecting the government's commitment to protecting our fisheries. The Ministry has a 90 per cent success rate for prosecutions.

"Poachers and black-market fishing operations are the target of an $11.6million crackdown over the next four years contained in Budget 2005. This includes $2.9m (GST excl) of operational funding in the coming year to create a Special Tactics team for covert operations. This will be achieved by employing up to 22 staff in the next two years dedicated to the poaching and black-market initiative.

"Ministry of Fisheries have a high level of co-operation with other agencies operationally and in strategic planning at both national and regional level. MFish has a memorandum of understanding with the New Zealand Police, and has a person permanently based alongside military and other agencies like customs at the National Maritime Co-ordination Centre at Trentham.

"A new initiative as part of the crackdown on paua poachers announced in Budget 2005 sees MFish training Customs and Aviation Security staff in identifying and handling illegal fish products.

"Sadly, National also seem unaware that the government has already determined that highly migratory species will not be introduced into the QMS until international allocations have been made. I am surprised National's fisheries spokesman Phil Heatley made such a fundamental mistake given that he is a member of a Select Committee that looked at this issue in depth.

"National says an 'ecosystem and preservation' approach to fisheries management has undermined the Quota Management System," said Mr Benson-Pope. "They don't seem to understand that such an approach is required under Part 2 of the Fisheries Act 1996. The Ministry of Fisheries is required by the Act to take into account dependent species, biological diversity and fisheries habitat, when making decisions.

"The Fisheries Act was brought in by a National government so it is beyond me why they do not know its guiding principles.

"A non-ecosystem and non-preservation approach would be a short cut to catastrophe. The decimation of the North Atlantic cod fishery shows the potential disaster over-fishing can have on species, as well as communities that have grown up around the fishing industry. We aren't going to let that happen here.

"National appears to be advocating a poorly managed fishery where industry concerns are to be given primacy over those of other fishers, environmentalists and New Zealanders in general.

"Fisheries management is about carefully weighing up these competing interests, basing decisions on the best scientific information available, for the long-term sustainability of the marine environment.

"I believe New Zealanders will be genuinely frightened by the approach being advocated by the National Party," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"National seem to be flip-flopping on marine reserves having once been staunch advocates. Their latest policy effectively ends marine space being turned into marine reserves that all New Zealanders can enjoy," said Mr Benson-Pope. "New Zealanders have expressed a clear desire for parts of our oceans to be protected for future generations."

Mr Benson-Pope pointed to a Colmar-Brunton poll of 1000 New Zealanders carried out in March this year for the World Wildlife Fund, which found that 95 per cent of New Zealanders think a greater percentage of New Zealand's marine environment should be protected.

ENDS

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