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Fisheries Act ‘Ambiguity’ a Whale of a Red Herring

Fisheries Act ‘Ambiguity’ a Whale of a Red Herring, says Seafood Industry

8th December 2006

The Government’s announcement that the Fisheries Act is to be amended has dismayed the New Zealand seafood industry.

“Suggestions that the law is ambiguous are rubbish – it is very, very clear,” says New Zealand Seafood Industry Council chief executive Owen Symmans. “The 1996 Fisheries Act allows for a wide range of decisions based on sustainability and utilisation made at the Minister’s discretion. The Government’s claim that amending the Act is required because of uncertainty or ambiguity – or that it’s for sustainability - is the biggest red herring we’ve ever seen.

“All the Court cases taken by the industry over the last 10 years have been judicial reviews. In a judicial review the Court looks at whether the Minister has followed due process and whether the law has been applied appropriately. If a decision is based on a flawed process or poor quality of advice, then the decision will be vulnerable to challenge. This is not about sustainability or utilisation. The courts would never interfere with a Fisheries Minister’s decision on sustainability and utilisation.”

No fisheries science is entirely certain, Mr Symmans said. “This is not and never will be a ‘black and white’ issue. Amending the Act is not going to change how fisheries science works and it is not going to stop the government being challenged on decisions that don’t reflect good process and sound advice. Being able to challenge poor decisions is a fundamental right in our legal framework”

Current fisheries legislation embodies the twin goals of utilisation and sustainability. Together these two goals are directly aligned with the concept of sustainable development that the Labour coalition government has been promoting recently.

Ends

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