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Public Contempt For Government Inaction On Fishing Boat Cameras

Six years after the Government first promised cameras onboard commercial fishing boats to prevent dumping and protect vulnerable species, there are fewer than 100 vessels outfitted with the technology.

A Newshub investigation broadcast last night revealed an “explosive” recording in 2018 of Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash blaming NZ First’s Winston Peters and Shane Jones for the delay in fitting cameras on around 1000 boats.

A 2019 Horizon Research poll showed 69% of New Zealanders think not enough is being done to stop dumping of unwanted catch by commercial fishers.

“The Government cannot ignore the public’s increasing frustration for those running interference and preventing Ministers from fulfilling their duties. The protection of bycatch species and monitoring dumping are core roles of Minister Nash and Fisheries New Zealand,” says Sam Woolford from public awareness group LegaSea.

“The Minister must be free to make decisions in the interests of rebuilding depleted fisheries for the benefit of all New Zealanders. Electronic monitoring is one element that can be readily addressed,” says Mr Woolford.

LegaSea and the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council recently released a plan named Rescue Fish that addresses the current regulatory capture where the industry and its regulatory body are too closely aligned and have the ability to sway political decision-making.

LegaSea spokesperson Sam Woolford says the Rescue Fish policy is an alternative to the Quota Management System (QMS) because the current situation is no longer acceptable.

“Over time fisheries management has become highly political. The QMS is clearly not functioning effectively. Our Rescue Fish policy is designed so there can be no outside influence of decision-making. All decisions will be based on strong principles and more effective legislation,” says Mr Woolford.

“Given past donations and NZ First’s ties to Talleys and other fishing companies it is important that we see a degree of separation from the decision-making processes”.

The New Zealand Sport Fishing Council President Bob Gutsell commended Newshub journalist Michael Morrah for breaking the news story wide open so the public can see what is going on behind closed doors.

“Clearly the QMS has had its day. It is not fit for purpose any longer and needs to be replaced. In good faith we have developed the Rescue Fish alternative so we can initiate the discussion on what a new fisheries management system might look like,” says Mr Gutsell.

To address any cost issues, the Rescue Fish policy proposes the Government own and control the monitoring equipment. Costs will be recovered through a new permitting system.

The groups say that any system that is able to be undermined in such a serious way needs reform and are calling on the Government to start a work programme as soon as possible to map out the reforms.

Public support for policy change is being sought through a petition and more information can be found on the Rescue Fish website.

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