1 Mar 2012

Minister wants observers on foreign fishing boats

8:52 pm on 1 March 2012

The Primary Industries Minister says he wants to see government observers on all joint venture fishing vessels within 12 months.

A ministerial inquiry has found that some foreign crew working on fishing boats chartered to New Zealand companies have been mistreated, but concludes the incidents are not as widespread as has been suggested.

The inquiry was initiated after allegations of mistreatment and underpayment.

The report says the inquiry heard disturbing stories about how some crew have been treated, but concludes the incidents are not widespread as has been suggested.

It makes several recommendations, including placing ministry observers on all foreign chartered boats and strengthening the relevant code of practice.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter says the government has agreed to adopt the first six recommendations, and will look at the rest in coming months.

The report also calls on some of the New Zealand companies to take more responsibility for what happens on vessels they have chartered.

Mr Carter says it is clear the current regulatory regime is not strong enough.

He says he wants to see observers on all chartered boats, and the observers taking a much broader view to include crew welfare.

He says around 30% of the vessels have observers on when they are fishing and he wants to see that increased to 100%.

The minister says the observer would be doing more than fisheries management but also be looking at issues around the welfare of staff.

"It is absolutely essential that if we allow foreign charter vessels into New Zealand, that we have a situation where no abuse and exploitation of labour can occur."

Sanford support

One of the country's biggest fishing companies Sanford says it supports a call for more comprehensive reporting and observation on foreign charter vessels.

Sanford's managing director Eric Barratt says it has investigated the conditions aboard the four Korean vessels it charters and found no evidence the crews are abused.