The scale of the scandal is mind boggling: at 25 million tonnes of fish and spanning six decades, fishing in New Zealand waters has lifted 2.7 times what was reported. In other words less than 40% of what has been taken, is showing on the official records.
The Ministry of Primary Industries known ineptitude however is not new. Nor are the allegations that have made this a problem in the first place.
What is perhaps new – if anything – is the sheer scale of our dishonesty with ourselves and the rest of the world about what has really been caught in New Zealand waters. This is a scandal that covers successive Governments dating back to when Sidney Holland was Prime Minister in 1950, despite differences of opinion over how New Zealand’s fisheries should be managed.
It would probably be impossible to fully account for it all as some of the people who knew about the scandal in the 1950’s, 60’s and 1970’s are now probably dead. However the onus now falls on this Government and whatever follows it after the election later this year to do the following:
- Take measures that stop further misreporting and
- Make possible the application of criminal penalties should it fail
- Do an immediate inventory of existing resources, to be reported to the Minister for Fisheries, Minister for Primary Industries
- Seek legal counsel to cover matters arising out of this
If we add the environmental damage, the human rights abuses committed aboard the trawlers, the non cooperation of the trawler skippers and the violations of New Zealand labour laws it could be argued that this is just the tip of an iceberg reeking of dead fish.
So, in an election where justice of other sorts could be a potential issue given the crime rate and failure to make progress against the scourge of drugs, will the wheels of justice need to spin on this case. And if they do, will this Government and whoever follows it, take notice?