April 12, 2017

What’s going on in our fisheries?
In the past week there has been claims and counter-claims about the cosy relationships between fisheries officials and corporate commercial interests. For years these dealings have been shaded from public view.

Thanks to your support LegaSea and others have put the spotlight on these arrangements and we are now seeing the thin veneer on our supposed “world leading” quota management system rapidly peeling away.

LegaSea believes it’s time you understood what’s going on in our fisheries.

How it’s supposed to work
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is supposed to oversee the running of New Zealand’s fisheries for future generations, yet MPI seems all too willing to hand over that role to the fishing industry.

MPI has already been in the firing line for giving the contract to monitor cameras on fishing boats to a company set up by the fishing industry and now it’s once again been caught transferring further functions and powers to FishServe, a company wholly-owned by Seafood NZ.

FishServe collects and store all commercial fishing catch data, register vessels and quota holdings, monitor overfishing thresholds, and even provide Official Information Act (OIA) responses in place of MPI.

Members of the public have a right to ask for information from government departments under the Official Information Act, yet MPI is using FishServe as a way to duck its responsibilities in this area. As Greenpeace discovered, MPI has outsourced its responsibilities to FishServe and anyone seeking information has to pay FishServe for access.

MPI’s unwillingness to answer questions around its operations goes even further with researchers at the University of Auckland being denied access to MPI reports.

More cover-ups
The researchers, who came to prominence last year when they revealed three MPI reports into fish dumping activity, have asked for copies of 14 more reports into operations conducted by MPI, yet the Ministry refuses to hand over the material. The Ombudsman’s Office has been asked to look into why MPI is refusing to release information about Operations Apate, Apate II, Blade, Box II, Bronto, Horse. Kenwood, Mega, Mini, Maxi, Purse, Trios, Turn Up, and Uzi.

The researchers say these 14 reports are the tip of the iceberg – that there are around 100 such reports into commercial skippers dumping and misreporting catches and that the New Zealand people need to know more.

LegaSea has also asked for copies of these reports and for more information about how MPI conducts its business. We’ve called for a Commission of Inquiry into the ties between MPI and the fishing industry, the seeming lack of public accountability, and the advice MPI is giving to its minister.

For years now New Zealanders have been told the Quota Management System (QMS) is “world leading” yet more and more doubt is being cast on whether the Ministry is safeguarding the future of our fisheries.

As we revealed last month, fisheries are already beginning to fail. A prime example is New Zealand’s crayfish, which is described as being “functionally extinct” by scientists working in the Hauraki Gulf.

Recreational fishers are keen to conserve fish now if it means more for everyone later.

A recent survey found most recreational fishers who responded are willing to accept catch reductions to rebuild crayfish stocks in the Hauraki Gulf and Bay of Plenty, even if this mean a closed harvest season for either part of the year (83%) or a total closure until stocks recover (63% of respondents). Despite all these concerns and the move by commercial fishers to leave 25% of their quota uncaught, we’re told there’s no problem and that the recreational fishers of

New Zealand don’t know what they’re talking about.

What can you do?
It’s time to write to your MP and demand some answers, to ask what they’ll do for New Zealand’s fisheries if re-elected and to say that this is an issue on which you’ll base your voting decision.

It’s now or never for New Zealand fisheries. If MPI continues to hand control of our fish to commercial interests, we will lose our kaimoana for ever more and nobody wants to see that.

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