Minister right to deny secrecy to fishing companies


It has come to my attention that the Minister for Primary Industries, Stuart Nash, has rejected calls for secrecy on videos recorded on trawlers at sea that show dead marine birds and dolphins.

Aside from raising suspicions about whether the industry is trying to hide poor or illegal practices, the application for secrecy also means it would be more difficult to track any catches of protected species.

New Zealand prides itself on being responsible, but incidents such as those that happened with the Oyang trawlers where one of numerous offences was the improper catching and misreporting of fish taken, show another less savoury side. This has the potential to affect our reputation overseas, given that increasingly people are looking at the chain of supply to ensure that the products they consume came about as the result of legal and ethical practices.

In a letter to Mr Nash, the representatives of the fishing industry claimed that the videos would be used by individuals and organisations that have an anti-fishing agenda. The industry representatives also claimed that by making the videos subject to the Official Information Act, the Minister was in effect showing poor judgement on what are considered to be commercially sensitive issues.

Mr Nash rejected the letter, saying that he sees no grounds for changing the Fisheries Act in terms of those acting under it meeting their obligations to the Official Information Act.

When a company fishes commercially in New Zealand waters and operates ships out of a New Zealand port they are completely subject to New Zealand law. That means the company must ensure that New Zealand occupational safety and health provisions must be complied with, that when a ship goes to sea it is in a seaworthy condition and the crew are fit to be working on board. When the ship returns to its New Zealand port it does not drop ballast water that should have been discharged away from the coast. Most of all though unlike Oyang 75, which wound up being forfeited as a result of grossly negligent practices, physical and sexual abuse of crew and other crimes, it is expected that the crews on board are treated with dignity and paid their due wages.

If a company operating a fishing trawler or any other ship cannot or will not do that in accordance with New Zealand law, it has no place operating in our waters.

 

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