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Cameras On Boats Must Now Happen

Forest & Bird welcomes this morning's announcement that the Government intends to put cameras on boats on over 300 commercial fishing boats, but warns that the industry and Government needs to get on with job. 

The Fisheries Minister this morning announced the Government has agreed to make funding available to advance the next phase of on-board cameras, to around 345 vessels. Inshore fishing methods that harm protected wildlife like long lining, trawling and set netting will be the priority. Areas with endangered species including the habitats of Hector’s dolphins, Antipodean and Gibson’s Albatross, black petrels, and hoiho penguins will also be covered.

"Forest & Bird has been calling for Government-supported roll out of cameras on boats as part of New Zealand's COVID recovery. We are pleased to see the Government adopt an approach of prioritising fishing methods and places that put wildlife in danger. We are also pleased the inshore fleet is going to get help to put cameras on boats," says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

"Industry now needs to come to party and back the regulations and programme needed to make this happen. Too often what happens at sea is out of sight and out of mind and there is a chronic, widespread problem of illegal misreporting that needs to end."

Examples of misreporting include:

  • The data from the Government’s own annual report on highly migratory fish fisheries (tuna and swordfish) revealed that fishers were nine times more likely to report bycatch if there was an observer on board.
  • Forest & Bird gained data under the Official Information Act that showed that in the set net fishery penguin bycatch was almost exclusively reported on vessels that had observers.
  • In Australia when they put cameras on boats reporting of bycatch and discarding increased between three and seven times, depending on what was being reported.

"The public wants a fishing industry it can be proud of and cameras on boats is an important step towards achieving this," says Mr Hague.

"Forest & Bird supports financial support for inshore fishers to install cameras; we know that many in the inshore fleet own no quota and fish to very tight margins. Funding should be time limited to encourage early adoption by the industry."

Long fight for transparency and integrity

May 2017: Then Fisheries Minister Nathan Guy announces funding for GPS monitoring and electronic logbooks and was going to be "followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from 1 October next year".

November 2017: New Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash postpones cameras on fishing boats.

Mid 2018: Forest & Bird launches its Zero Bycatch campaign and Pathway to Zero Bycatch report.

July 2018: Fishing companies write to Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash saying they do not support cameras on boats.

January 2019: Rollout of cameras delayed until August.

June 2019: Government announces roll-out of cameras on a small number of vessels in Maui dolphin habitat starting November 2019.

June 2020: Rollout delayed to until October 2021.

September 2020 (today): Government announces rollout starting October 2021.

Key species at risk from fisheries bycatch

Hector's dolphins 
Our Hector's dolphins, one of the worlds smallest dolphins, are unique to New Zealand and are only found around our South Island shores. Although once commonly seen from many beaches their numbers are now so low that it is rare to find them riding the bow waves of kayaks and boats, and they are hardly ever seen from the shore except at Curio Bay where they sometimes enjoy surfing with surfers. Despite their small numbers they are still being caught in set nets, and the recent set net bans failed to cover their southern habitats. 

Antipodean and Gibson's albatrosses 
These large magnificent wandering albatrosses are awfully close to extinction and their populations are declining rapidly. We know they get caught in New Zealand waters as well as on the high seas on the tuna and swordfish long liners. Earlier this year a single New Zealand boat caught four Antipodean albatross off the East Cape. 

Hoiho/yellow-eyed penguin
The hoiho population is in free fall and with less than 200 nests last season the future for hoiho is grim. Every bird counts and every year hoiho get caught in set nets. We have no idea how many as the only time a death is reported is when there are observers on the boat and with so few observers it is impossible to know what is happening at sea.

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