4 Sep 2020

Plan to install hundreds more cameras on fishing boats welcomed

2:31 pm on 4 September 2020

The government is poised to spend millions of dollars on hundreds more cameras for the country's fishing boat fleet.

View with a shallow depth of field of the deck of a fishing vessel: boxes with a fresh fish yield of tuna, the yellow rope and simple drag anchor, ocean water with bokeh overboard

New Zealand's largest seafood company Sanford said the proposal will lead to more transparency on fishing boats. Photo: 123RF

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said the government is funding a detailed business case and looking at the approval of new regulations.

Public consultation will be sought on the proposal which would see the rollout of 345 more cameras.

Cameras would cover all inshore areas where fishing poses significant risks to protected species.

If Cabinet signs off on the proposal, the rollout could begin in late 2021, costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million over four years.

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Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Fisheries

Last year the government paid for cameras on 20 fishing vessels in areas that pose the highest risk to Māui dolphins, off the West Coast of the North Island. It also required electronic catch and position reporting for around 830 boats in the inshore fleet.

If the wider use of cameras goes ahead, it would lead to a more modern fishing industry and a sustainable seafood sector, Nash said.

"The decision also supports the economic recovery for communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods. As we respond to the impact of Covid-19 it's more important than ever to position the country as a world-leading source of sustainable, trusted and high-value seafood," Nash said.

Listen to a podcast from The Detail about the issue of cameras on fishing boats

The announcement has already been welcomed by New Zealand's largest seafood company Sanford.

Sanford's chief executive Volker Kuntzsch said about 50 vessels working for the company will have cameras on board under the plan.

Kuntzsch said it was a great step forward and would lead to more transparency on fishing boats.

"Sanford is a big supporter of a national system of cameras on vessels. We already have cameras on many of our fishing boats, but there has been a piecemeal approach to the technology up till now and this announcement will hopefully change that."

He said it would keep them focused on doing the right thing at sea.

"If having cameras on vessels helps reassure people about what we do, that can only be a good thing. We look forward to working with everyone involved to roll out this technology as soon as possible."

Too little, too late say

Greenpeace has slammed the government's cameras on fishing boats announcement as too little, too late.

Greenpeace spokesperson Jessica Desmond said cameras were urgently needed on the entire commercial fleet of about 1500 vessels.

She said the government was again pandering to commercial fishing rather than pushing ahead on long-overdue and much-needed protections.

Forest & Bird has welcomed the announcement but urged the government to roll the programme out more quickly. Its chief executive Kevin Hague said the announcement was a win for conservation his organisation had been demanding for years.

"We're thrilled to see victory finally and to see a government commitment to rolling out cameras on boats, but now the acid has to go on both government and the industry to actually make the implementation happen faster than the minister has indicated today otherwise we will lose some of these precious species," Hague said.

He said the programme seemed to be prioritising the right vessels and areas of the coast, but the camera monitoring needed to happen faster.

National leader Judith Collins said it was "about time" the government announced plans to expand the cameras programme.

She said National had always been supportive of having cameras on fishing boats.

"I think it's very late in the piece for them to do it. Certainly they've had three years to get it in place, they said they were gonna do things and they didn't.

"It clearly shows too that New Zealand First, the Greens and Labour have split in quite an untimely and let's say, messy, manner."

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