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Independent inquiry needed after leaked fishing report

Thursday, May 24: Greenpeace is calling for a full and independent inquiry into New Zealand’s Fisheries Management System after releasing a leaked internal Government report showing "shocking" levels of malfeasance in the hoki fishery.

The leaked report was produced by the compliance division of the Ministry of Fisheries in 2012, and reveals widespread fish dumping and under-reporting in the deepwater hoki fishery in New Zealand.

Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says the report is profoundly at odds with public material about fishing industry practises that have been released by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), into which the Ministry of Fisheries was merged.

"This report is shocking. It lists a multitude of ways that Fisheries Officers found that fishing companies were seriously under-reporting catches - we’re talking thousands and thousands of tonnes of hoki that has been made to disappear," he says.

In just one example, Talley’s system of reporting the weight of cartons of fish was described as unlawful by the report, and it was estimated that if this system was applied to all Talley’s hoki fishery, it would result in under-reporting of 780 tonnes a hoki in one season. Carton weight discrepancies also led the authors to conclude that Sanford had under-reported hoki catch by 90 tonnes in a monthly return.

"What it meant was that far more fish were being caught than were being reported under New Zealand’s Quota Management System, resulting in millions of dollars in savings for fishing companies as they didn’t need to purchase quota for the disappeared fish. It also meant that no-one really knew how much fish was being taken," Norman says.

"MPI and the fishing industry have told us that the deepwater fishery was well regulated and managed. They told us that the widespread fish dumping that Greenpeace revealed previously in the inshore fishery was not occurring in the large scale industrial deepwater fishery involving the biggest fishing companies in New Zealand. This leaked report shows that the problems of under-reporting and fish dumping in the deepwater fishery is simply a larger scale version of what happens in the inshore fishery."

MPI had earlier, under the Official Information Act, released an 11 page version of the leaked 141 page report that left out all the important parts, including the critical 45 recommendations made by the compliance team.

Norman says given past experience with MPI, it’s doubtful that many of these recommendations were ever implemented.

"Where are the resulting prosecutions and enforcement actions that resulted from this huge compliance operation?" he says.

"MPI is captured by the fishing industry. We need an independent public inquiry into the fisheries management system and its regulator. But MPI and the seafood industry are trying to prevent this independent inquiry and are instead pushing for an internal review. This leaked report shows why that must not happen.

"MPI simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth or regulate the industry. Just last year when they didn’t prosecute anyone after their own video cameras exposed widespread fish dumping in the inshore fishery, MPI claimed the decision not to prosecute was due to legal advice. But it turned out that legal advice did not exist. MPI simply didn’t tell the truth."

"As the report itself says, when the Ministry of Fisheries set catch levels for hoki, they claimed there was no reliable estimate of the level of dumping. However, this had in fact already been produced by Ministry scientists."

Full report can be found here: http://greenpeace.nz/fz92p6


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