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The law stops us saving dolphins

Hon Jim Anderton

Member of Parliament for Wigram
Progressive Leader

19 November 2009
Media Statement

The law stops us saving dolphins

The Fisheries Act must be amended so that ministers have a clear mandate to protect our oceans as a priority, when fish stocks are low or a species is threatened with extinction, says MP for Wigram and Progressive Party leader Jim Anderton.

The Act is unclear about when the minister can favour sustainability over commercial use, and act to protect a species like Orange Roughey for example, or endangered mammals like the Hector and Maui dolphins.

“It demands that a minister prove beyond doubt that a species is threatened. But in reality, the information we get is often incomplete and flawed. It’s very hard to follow the behaviour of a fish stock. It’s an imperfect science.

“That’s why internationally, there is consensus that where information is uncertain ministers should adopt a precautionary approach, and protect a species as a priority.”

In 2008 Jim Anderton, then Fisheries Minister, introduced new rules and closed certain areas to commercial fishing in an effort to save the world's rarest and smallest dolphin from extinction - the Maui dolphin. The fishing industry took the government to court because they claimed that the proof was not absolute. The court is still to make a final ruling on the case.

As minister, Jim Anderton introduced a Bill to amend the act to make it clear that the most important part of the minister’s job, on behalf of all New Zealanders, is to protect the sustainability of our fishing resource.

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“I couldn’t get the support across the House to get this amendment passed. National MP Phil Heatley said in parliament that he supported the Bill because it “provided a clearer direction to the minister..to take a cautious approach.

“But between then and when the Bill was taken to Select Committee, the fishing industry got to him, to the Maori Party and to NZ First. Their support was subsequently withdrawn.

“Now that Phil Heatley is the Minister of Fisheries, he is still refusing to do something about this toothless fisheries act. The industry would do well to consider that a fish in the sea is a fish in the bank, and we all benefit when we protect the resources in our oceans,” says Jim Anderton.


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