29 May 2016

Fishing industry monitoring boats - Greenpeace

6:43 pm on 29 May 2016

The government has awarded a contract to carry out surveillance on fishing boats to a company owned by the largest players in the country's fishing industry.

Fish, Gurnard, file photo

Photo: 123RF

Greenpeace New Zealand has revealed the connection, which comes after recent reports into under-reporting and illegal dumping of catch in New Zealand, forcing an independent inquiry and the fast-tracking of monitoring on vessels.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman described the award of the surveillance contract as being like "the fox guarding the hen house".

In December the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) awarded Trident Systems the contract to set up cameras on board commercial trawlers to monitor the vessels.

Trident is owned by the fishing industry and Greenpeace says the awarding of the contract to ensure fishing boats are complying with rules around catch limits, fish size and dolphin deaths is outrageous.

Trident Systems is a limited partnership, whose general partner is Trident Systems General Partner, 42 percent owned by a wholly-owned entity of Sanford, and 27 percent owned by a wholly-owned entity of Moana Pacific Fisheries.

Trident said the company was contracted to gather information, and the Ministry for Primary Industries also had access to the video footage.

It said there would also be a peer review process in place.

Trident today put out a statement celebrating winning the contract and moving to an operational phase following trials in 2003.

But the Ministry for Primary Industries called the contract just another trial involving a small number of boats.

Earlier this month, a study conducted by the Fisheries Centre at British Columbia University, together with Oxford and Auckland universities, was released.

It stated that New Zealand's true catch was nearly three times as high as is reported officially.

A subsequently leaked Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) report showed its own officials believed between 20 and 100 percent of some quota fish were being discarded during every haul.

In another report, an MPI investigator said the issue of dumping had been known about for a long time, but had generally been considered in the "too hard basket".

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman. Photo: Greenpeace

Dr Norman said the situation was especially troubling because three separate MPI investigations had indicated Sanford Limited was either engaged in potentially illegal activities, or the vessels supplying the company were engaged in potentially illegal behaviour.

"We've now seen several leaked MPI investigation reports that variously found that fishing companies were not reporting all of the fish they caught, misreporting fish weight, discarding huge amounts of dead fish, and not reporting dolphin deaths.

"We've got a serious problem with badly behaved fishing companies, and what do MPI do? They award the contract to monitor fishing boats to an entity owned and controlled by the fishing companies themselves," he said.

Dr Norman believes an independent Commission of Inquiry into what is going on inside MPI is the only suitable outcome.

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