The revelations that the Ministry of Primary Industries feared prosecuting people who participated in the illegal dumping of fish, and took subsequent steps to block it is a substantial blow to the Ministry overseeing one of New Zealand’s largest economic sectors.
The revelations stem from an operation in 2013 when investigators were monitoring dolphin by catch and found illegal dumping when recording activities for the purpose of evidence. When the illegal dumping was recorded, investigators made a recommendation that prosecution follow.
However senior staff – both of whom have since resigned (allegedly for entirely non-related reasons) – in Ministry of Primary Industries took steps to block the prosecution by sitting on evidence that clearly demonstrated illegal practices were occurring. And an investigation by Michael Heron QC finds that both Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Primary Industries failed to carry out their responsibilities.
So, what is the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy doing about these revelations?
As yet no response has been made by the Minister.
This is concerning, as New Zealand waters have long had a reputation as for being the wild west of the high seas. The reputation stems from a host of problems with illegal dumping, slavery like abuses on foreign fishing vessels and occupational health and safety breaches. Between 2010 and 2014 incidents on trawlers belonging to Oyang Corporation were involved in a variety of criminal offences, accidents and behaviour that can only be described as erratic.
Despite public concern, and political pressure from Opposition parties and N.G.O.’s, the various Government ministers have failed to address in depth these issues. Failure to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law is in effect saying to the offenders and potential future offenders, that the Government and the legal system do not mind you committing these offences.
I believe that both Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Primary Industries need to conduct full internal investigations into their practices. They should then release the findings into the public domain and act on the recommendations forthwith. Failure to do so should result in the sacking of both Chief Executives and anyone who blocks, delays or otherwise interferes with these outcomes.
Or is New Zealand prepared to be the wild west of the high seas for awhile longer yet, at the expense of lives, ships and our moral standing?