Urgent action required on illegal fishing operations

snapper-bagIndustrial fishing fleets kill more than twice the number fish they report and are doing so with little oversight from the Ministry of Primary Industries according to research released by the University of Auckland today.

The University of Auckland’s “Reconstruction of marine fisheries catches for New Zealand (1950-2010)” report, released today, points out the lie that is New Zealand’s much vaunted Quota Management System (QMS) for industrial fisheries.

“The deliberate misreporting of catch to the United Nations for more than 50 years demonstrates a serious level of dysfunction in the Ministry for Primary Industries. This is a major concern given that the Ministry and Minister, Nathan Guy, are tasked with overseeing the quota system on behalf of the public,” says LegaSea’s spokesperson, Richard Baker.

The report makes it clear that industrial fishing fleets kill far more fish than they report and are doing so with little oversight from the Ministry, which is supposed to be overseeing the system on behalf of the public.

Those offences included cases of dumping, misreporting and interfering with protected species such as Hector’s dolphins. Offences occurred aboard both inshore and offshore industrial vessels.

Since the Quota Management System was introduced in 1986 the total catch is conservatively estimated to be 2.1 times that reported. LegaSea is calling for an urgent review of the QMS and of MPI’s role in overseeing the industry.

“We’ve long suspected that the fishing industry wasn’t coming clean about the extent of the real damage it’s doing, but with this data we can see that the truth is much worse than we were led to believe,” Says Baker.

LegaSea will also be writing to the Prime Minister to find out why MPI research into the damage was ignored, despite clear evidence of dumping.

“The University of Auckland researchers have uncovered two MPI operations that showed clear signs of unlawful activity but which were ignored or covered up by Ministry officials. The public deserves to know why and can rightly expect Nathan Guy to hold the Ministry to account for their inaction.”

The report refers to Operations Achilles, undertaking in 2012, and Operation Hippocamp, both of which found inshore trawlers dumping between one third and two thirds of their catch.

“Even in the presence of a Ministry Observer large quantities of QMS species were discarded. An extensive examination of the hauls made by one vessel between November 2012 and February 2013 “concluded that [name withheld] consistently and deliberately illegally discarded substantial quantities of quota fish,” says the report which notes that Hector’s Dolphins were also caught and killed without full notification to officials.

“The Quota Management System was supposed to help protect and nurture our fish stocks, to allow a sustainable harvest of fish without undue damage to the stock numbers or the environment. Instead, we see gross negligence on the part of MPI allowing the illegal destruction of our natural resource. These offences cannot be under-estimated, the government must act to both protect our international reputation and ensure we can restore our fisheries for future generations.”