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National out of touch with sector needs

16 September 2008 Media Statement

National out of touch with sector needs

Phil Heatley needs to get out more and take the full view of the fishing and aquaculture sector rather than just run with the prejudices of a few fishing businessmen, Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said today.

He said National's policy on fishing and aquaculture published today showed that National was out of touch with the sector and its needs.

"For example, saying that National would give fishers the final say on marine reserves demonstrates Phil Heatley's lack of understanding in this area. The minister of fisheries is already the last decider of those reserves - that's why the contentious Great Barrier Island reserve proposal didn't go ahead.

"Likewise with fish stocks scientists - on more than one occasion, ministry officials have told the primary production select committee, which Phil Heatley sits on, that there is a global shortage of fish stocks scientists. Currently, we deal with that shortage by contracting in fish stocks scientists from other organisations for specific projects while continuing to recruit internationally. It's not a problem that can be fixed by wishing, or crossing your fingers."

Jim Anderton said that some fishing industry spokespeople liked to complain about increasing bureaucracy, but that wasn't borne out by the reality.

"Ministry staff numbers have increased as their tasks have increased. For example, more than 50 new fish stocks have been brought into the Quota Management System since 2002 and there is an increased emphasis on managing the environmental effects of fishing and monitoring marine biodiversity. In 1996, 64 species were managed under the QMS, in 183 stock areas. In 2007, 95 species were managed, in 628 areas.

"There has also been an increase in policy staff to meet the increased workloads in Treaty of Waitangi settlements and a wider policy work programme, and an increase in fisheries operations staff to work on the fisheries planning and Treaty of Waitangi deed of settlement obligations processes with fisheries stakeholders. This entails working with customary, commercial and recreational stakeholders to develop fisheries plans for about 30 key groups of fish stocks.

"All these are Crown-funded, not cost-recovered from industry positions."

Jim Anderton said MPs should be well aware of the developments with Maori aquaculture, and the current negotiations with Maori over space, as well as impending legislation to fix some issues around aquaculture allocation.

"It's no wonder this policy has actually been announced by the National Party rather than leaked - it's a weak document that either completely misses the point or adopts what the Government is already doing." Jim Anderton said he welcomed the National Party's belated commitment to sustainability and to improving aquaculture legislation, saying he hoped this meant legislation in both areas due to go through Parliament in the next couple of weeks would be supported by the party without any quibbling.


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