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Industry welcomes considered approach to cameras on vessels

The New Zealand seafood industry has welcomed confirmation by Stuart Nash, the Fisheries Minister, that the Government is reconsidering a proposal to install cameras on all commercial fishing vessels.

Chief Executive of Seafood New Zealand, Tim Pankhurst, said the Minister’s statement that the Government will take a reasoned and pragmatic approach to ensure commercial fishers are obeying the law is welcomed.

Commercial fishers are obliged to report their catches, including all interactions with seabirds and marine mammals and we need to reassure the public that this is being done.

Chief Executive of Deepwater Group Ltd, George Clement supports this more open approach by Minister Nash and supports the call by Eugenie Sage, the Conservation Minister, for a greater commitment from industry to reduce bycatch.

“There are many effective and innovative practices already in place and further developments are underway,” Clement said.

“Recent allegations of misreporting are of concern and need to be remedied where they are, in fact, occurring. In response, the previous Government proposed the installation of cameras on all vessels, to deter illegal activities. Cameras have their place as one of a number of monitoring tools to verify catch reporting, but they are expensive and will not work in all applications.

“We welcome further transparency in the interests of better informing good fisheries management. However, there are many practical decisions around the use of cameras in private workspaces that remain unresolved. Monitoring tools must be fit for purpose. The original proposal was foisted on the industry without proper consultation and was simplistic, inadequate and unreasonably costly.

“With one camera on each vessel the annual costs to industry for compliance and at sea monitoring would increase to $18,000 for each inshore vessel and $168,000 for each deep water vessel. Government has a duty of care to ensure monitoring is both effective and affordable. Cameras cannot replace at-sea observers, who measure the catch and collect biological samples to inform management decisions.

“It is reassuring to have a Government that is committed to getting this major step-change right to ensure that it delivers better fisheries management, improved transparency and enhances New Zealand’s reputation,” Clement said.

Minister Nash said today there were many options to address increased transparency, which could include more at-sea observers on vessels.

“What pleases the seafood industry is an unrushed and honest approach to find a solution that works for the vessel operators, the environment, and good fisheries management," Pankhurst said.

"We look forward to further discussions with Minister Nash and his officials."

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