Minister puts sustainability, and government’s reputation at risk

Written By: - Date published: 7:45 am, November 15th, 2017 - 33 comments
Categories: Environment, labour, national, sustainability - Tags: , , ,

Guest Post by Christine Rose

Maui and Hector’s dolphins, found only here in New Zealand, have the dubious status of being among the world’s rarest. They’re the symbol of all the bad we’re doing to the oceans. But worst of all known threats to these tiny dolphins are fishing related impacts, when they get caught and drown.

The Department of Conservation has a long list of incidents with Maui and Hector’s dolphins killed in nets, right up to the present day. Historically both recreational and commercial nets did the damage, but these days it’s mostly trawling that’s killing the dolphins. Probably only a few of the actual dead dolphins are reported, but some have washed up, eviscerated, partially weighted, in failed illicit disposal attempts. Others would never be found.

Research from the University of Auckland Business School shows that at least 2.7 times more fish was caught in the New Zealand fishery from 1950-2010, than reported. News last week focussed on penguin populations off Southland being destroyed by trawling. New Zealand Sea Lions are hanging on for dear life because of entrapment in squid nets. Seabird by-catch is untold.

Under pressure from these sorts of facts the government has planned to implement electronic video monitoring systems on the NZ fishing fleet. The National Government also promised an increase in fisheries observer coverage up to 100% in ‘core’ Maui dolphin habitat by 2017. So far, to protect these critically endangered dolphins, observer coverage is at about 18%, at the cost of reduced observer coverage elsewhere.

Electronic monitoring has been supported to achieve ‘’100%” observer coverage. This has been defended by even National Party Ministers and MPs, who have seen it would ‘rebuild trust and confidence’ in the fishing industry, and have a deterrent effect on illegal practices. On the other hand, Glen Simmons from the University of Auckland said that if the true cost of overfishing and by-catch was considered, many in the fishing fleet would be out of business, so widespread are transgressions. The fishing industry itself hasn’t been so keen on full transparency, with fishing interests calling for a ‘pause’ on the camera implementation.

A 2009 trial of video surveillance on six boats out of Timaru, was intended to monitor Hector’s dolphin protection. The cameras identified significant discards of non-target and undersized fish, and the capture of two Hector’s dolphins. Both were released from the net, one dead, the other’s fate unknown. Neither were reported as required by law.

The subsequent Heron Inquiry found the failure to prosecute for either the fish dumping or the killing of threatened dolphins, exposed regulatory and enforcement weaknesses within Ministry of Primary Industries’ ranks and its wider culture. The video evidence showed the cameras worked, even if the Hector’s dolphin protection and MPI enforcement didn’t.

In anticipation of the roll out of electronic video surveillance, this year MPI halved observer coverage in the East Coast Snapper fishery area. The electronic monitoring isn’t perfect. It can be turned off, obstructed or obscured. The recorded information is to be analysed by a consortium of fishing interests. There are fears that video evidence might not always be admissible in court. Refinements are needed to improve reliability, security and transparency. But it’s better than the alternative, mostly nothing. Either way, more observer coverage is essential for sustainability of fish stocks and associated ecosystems, not less.

The new Labour-led Government’s plans to dismantle the Ministry for Primary Industries and create a separate Fisheries Ministry, showed hope for improvement. Last year, before he assumed his new position as Minister of Fisheries, Napier MP Stuart Nash was encouraging National Party TukiTuki representative Craig Foss to do more to manage fish stocks, monitoring and compliance. He said electronic monitoring was a good step, which he hoped would deliver greater transparency about what was being caught.

Last week however, new Minister Nash announced a delay to the roll out of electronic monitoring, citing concerns with privacy and cost. He said he’d had discussions with stakeholders and that “this is an important initiative to get right”, and this government would not be following the ‘hasty timetable’ set by the previous Government.

In the absence of a comprehensive observer coverage programme; but in light of unsustainable dumping and by-catch of non-target species including endangered dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds; a culture of obfuscation in MPI; and self-regulation and capture by the fishing industry, a resolute approach from the Minister is required.

In citing fishing sector privacy and cost concerns rather than addressing the issues that would make the video monitoring more robust, Minister Nash appears to have been quickly won over by vested interests in the fishing industry. His decision to ‘pause’ the programme, echoing the words of fishing representatives, puts the industry, the enforcement regime, the dolphins, and the Government’s reputation, at risk.

33 comments on “Minister puts sustainability, and government’s reputation at risk”

  1. BM 1

    Like “pausing” the Kermadec ocean sanctuary, disgraceful kowtowing to Peters fishing industry backers.

    What have the Greens said about this? I haven’t read anything online I’m assuming they’re outraged and are going to take the government to task?

    • Puckish Rogue 1.1

      Mind you had they gone to National during the negotiations this mightn’t have happened

      This, the Kermadecs…its a quite a price to pay for a little bit of power

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      I haven’t read anything online

      So you’re either unable to use a search engine, or you’re lying.

      I think it’s the latter, you dishonest bitter loser.

      • faroutdude 1.2.1

        “this” by BM above obviously refers to the post. You are either being as usually dishonest or pretty thick OAB. A combination of both. Every day trying to defend your heroes will get exhausting, why don’t you take a break and do some real work.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2.1.1

          BM’s use of inverted commas around the word ‘pausing’ indicates his dishonesty and bad faith.

          I note you are another right wing fuckwit who has no idea how I spend my time.

  2. esoteric pineapples 2

    Didn’t take long for Labour to be captured by the fishing industry. I remember under the Clark government Jim Anderton caved into the fishing industry over Maui dolphin protection soon. The question has to asked as to why the fishing industry is able to be a law unto itself.

    • tuppence shrewsbury 2.1

      slave labour + farmed resources = low cost = great profits = more influence over new governments looking to spend more money that feature small parties with long established links to the good ol boy industries of racing and fishing.

    • cleangreen 2.2

      I hope labour uses this same Stuart Nash cautious approach (quote) Nash; – “would not be following the ‘hasty timetable’ set by the previous Government.”

      Before the labour coalition go signing us up to the new CPTPP (Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership) that is full of “fish hooks” that will render our government incapable of future Governance over our dominion, lives, health, wellbeing and environment.

  3. Ad 3

    The Minister is doing the right thing.

    As Greenpeace noted at the time, the fisheries industry won the contract for camera systems to minotor their own catch:

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/305112/fishing-industry-monitoring-boats-greenpeace

    Better known as poacher turned gamekeeper.

    Also, the camera systems don’t work.

    MPI said a leaked report that rubbished some cameras being trialled was “misleading” and poor quality.

    The Ministries’ own Director of Fisheries Steve Halley said at the time: “I want to categorically assure you that the information from the cameras can be used to support prosecutions.”

    Uh-huh.

    The leaked report, written by two of the ministry’s own forensic experts, said the footage from the cameras being tested in a snapper fishery off Auckland showed the resolution was too poor to identify the species or size of fish – both crucial factors for any prosecution.

    Greenpeace also accused Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy of misleading the public by promising the cameras could be used to prosecute illegal fishing.

    Two experts on using cameras as measuring tools, Professor Steve Dawson and Dr Pascal Sirguey, of Otago University, looked at footage from the trial cameras for RNZ.

    They both said there was much better, affordable technology than what they had seen was being used on the fishing boats.

    And why would a brand new system be deployed to bring in prosecution data, when it doesn’t work from the beginning? Would it be something to do with the naked self-interest of the fisheries industry regulating itself? Just maybe?

    Just maybe that’s massive grounds for a Minister to pull the whole thing and take it slowly?

    Oh, maybe.

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/339984/leaked-fishing-camera-report-sound-top-advisor-said

    So, no, the Minister hasn’t “put sustainability, and government’s reputation at risk.”

    What he’s done is start the slow process of ripping the corrupt MPI Fisheries staff out from their corporatised slumber, starting with the joke of the surveillance systems.

    • eco maori 3.1

      The quoter system is a sham look at the Italian he is still up to his old ways it is to easy to hide the over fishing these dicks only see $$$$$$ not the future were we wont no what a fish looks like Ka pai

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.2

      Yeah that was my understanding as well, so I was surprised to see people genuinely worried about the delay, given that self-regulation of a quota system has never been shown to work well in the past.

      IMO it is better to review it, and possibly require an independent entity to observe the electronic monitoring, but it needs to be reviewed quickly to highlight the urgency of the problem.

    • Christine Rose 3.3

      Delaying the implementation until the fishing industry is happy with it will be interminable. This is just caving in – when it has already been going very very slowly. Of course Trident shouldn’t be monitoring the information, but the Minister isn’t proposing a change to that. At present there is virtually no physical observer coverage, so at least cameras will have a deterrent effect. As noted in the article, there are legitimate concerns about whether information will be prosecutable, which is already the case. But note the Heron report’s condemnation of the failure to prosecute known breaches. That’s been the history of Maui and Hector’s by-catch and partly why they’re endangered today. Before the election the new Minister was urging haste on this, now he’s said it’s rushed. This is so overdue and has been promised for so long, as part of important fisheries management, it’s not credible to say it’s rushed. Sure it’s not perfect but be careful what you wish for, when the scale of by-catch is huge and observers are largely absent

  4. Can’t say that I’m surprised by this. Nash is on the right-wing and a champion of business and thus works to protect business rather than society.

    • greywarshark 4.1

      Seems it could be a combination DTB of that and what Ad said. Where is the timetable to start rolling out the good ones. Let the fishing industry work on them and offer them special depreciation if they are found not to be working. Get volunteers on board to set a template for what to expect when the cameras are working well, and revolving checkers who don’t get too pally withe the fishers, otherwise the ‘capture’ will never be controlled. While the fishers are gaming the system the animals are dying.

  5. Cinny 5

    Having worked in the fishing industry, I do know exactly what goes on. Cameras on the boats please.

    Maybe Nash is holding back due to pressure from the smaller vessels of the inshore fleets related to the cost of installing cameras?
    Some of the old school salty sea dogs like to do things a certain way and are not good with change and that’s a fact. I’d say it’s not so much cameras watching their catch, it’s probably more to do with them being a bit paranoid that cameras will be spying on them. Education is needed to eliminate their paranoia.

    The larger vessels usually have cameras, as it helps those on deck and those driving the nets to monitor where they are at in the factory before hauling up the next net.

    It’s easy to adjust TCER, not so easy to adjust what’s been seen on camera.

    It’s easy to get an Observer so sea sick they can’t observe the fishers, it’s near on impossible to make a camera sea sick.

    • Crashcart 5.1

      I was the same Cinny. Worked on a fishing boat out of Auckland in 95. In that one year we caught 5 dolphins in our nets. I can assure you that not one of them was reported and they were all dead (gill netting is a form of fishing that should be banned all out). That on top of excess dead by-catch and also setting twice as much net as we were legally allowed to every night. Not a period I am proud of. Thankfully that boat is out of operation now but I am willing to bet the same practices go on now.

    • Christine Rose 5.2

      He said the smaller vessel concerns were part of his concern, and ‘technology and privacy’ issues, so failing to address any of the issues NGOs raised as problems, just those identified by the fishing industry. Certainly the past National government made ad hoc concessions to smaller fishing interests allowing ring netting and set netting in Maui and Hector’s habitat in the Manukau and Marlborough Sounds respectively. There’s precedent of disproportionate influence right there

  6. millsy 6

    As Ad said, the system was going to be run by the fishing industry itself. Which meant we would have had multiple instances of footage lost and camera systems breaking down for ‘unknown’ reasons.

    I’m Ok with this.

  7. Good post. I also take onboard the comments Ad makes too. I’m not a fan of Nash or the commercial fishing industry.

    I hope the Greens go hard on this to find a way to protect all species.

  8. I hope that the new minister is looking at this system as well:

    With around 71 percent of the Earth’s surface covered in water, trying to police what happens out on the oceans is no easy task. But that’s where a new Google-powered satellite surveillance system called Global Fishing Watch (GFW) can help.

    Designed to act as an always-watching eye in the sky, the system can spot illegal fishing activities from space – with the help of some hardware down on the ground – and you can even explore the GFW map online.

    “It will really change the way we manage fisheries because we can see what’s happening instead of just trying to envision what’s out there on the water,” said US Science Envoy for the Ocean, Jane Lubchenco, from Oregon State University.

    “We will know, and therefore, we can make smarter decisions.”

  9. lprent 9

    *sigh*

    Could guest posters get in the habit of putting in links. This isn’t a frigging printed newspaper. It is online and readers can dig out their own information. Just write them into the text. For editors putting up guest posts – if the posts don’t have links then just add them. If the poster doesn’t want the particular ones picked, then they will start adding them before we see it…. 😈

    In this case, this appears to be the best general link on google.

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/conservationists-slam-government-delay-rollout-electronic-monitoring-fishing-vessels

    Basically as far as I am concerned this particular camera system and its enforcement was quite evidently completely flawed in the first place. Both by inadequate resolution and because the fishing industry was effectively running it without any evident adequate safeguards.

    I don’t have a problem with ‘pausing’ that as it was a crap system that was obviously designed to allow the fishing industry to continue rorting the system.

    The test for Stuart Nash as minister in this case should be if the observer system is restored, upgraded and enforced in the short term until the camera system is revised. I notice that there was absolutely nothing in his statement about ANY ameliorative actions by fisheries to cover the extra time.

    For the crabbers and the like who were worried about the costs etc, I have bugger all sympathy. They should already have a AIS transponder system with GPS installed anyway. If they are anything like the AIS Class B that I was writing code for a few years ago, then that should provide all of the geospatial information that a fishing vessel should require, and almost all fishing vessels should already be required to carry them. Cameras aren’t cheap. But they’re not that expensive either.

    If installing and maintaining these is going to break a business drawing resources from our fisheries, then they need to get out of the business anyway. They simply aren’t a viable business.

    My expectation of the interim enforcement happening is pretty low. You can draw your own conclusions about which ‘stakeholders’ he is listening to.

    • I don’t have a problem with ‘pausing’ that as it was a crap system that was obviously designed to allow the fishing industry to continue rorting the system.

      Yep.

      Have to apologise to Nash for my initial reaction. Further reading on it and some thought would indicate that pausing for a bit to put in place a better system is probably worthwhile.

      But it better be a better system.

      • Christine Rose 9.1.1

        I’m definitely still not convinced a pause is the right response given the reduced observer coverage. As you say above, there’s no commensurate increase in physical observers, no time line committed to resolution, no addressing the capture of monitoring through Trident. Review, adapt, modify, encourage, all that, but keep to task.

    • KJT 9.2

      Fishing vessels are already required to have AIS.

      Don’t know what date it started, but havn’t seen one without it for years.

      noted that the navy seem to be switching theirs on lately. After the US destroyer that hit a merchant ship, this year.

      As for bycatch dumping etc. We all know it goes on.

      i

  10. Ms Fargo 10

    In a few short weeks, Nash has become a hand puppet of Peter Tally and his mates. This is an excellent article summed up perfectly in the last paragraph! Thank you.

  11. savenz 11

    It should be pretty much a no brainer to get surveillance on immediately to protect our fishing stocks and endangered species from over fishing by today’s profiteers and lazy fishermen.

    If they want to protect industry – start patrolling our exclusion fishing zones from foreign vessels, and start boarding them and prosecuting them if they find over fishing and slave labour.

    The whole industry needs a clean up. It’s a race to the bottom at present.

  12. Michael 12

    I think Eugenie Sage explained things well during question time this afternoon when, in response to Maggie Barry (that well-known champion for endangered species), Sage said there were problems with the monitoring equipment that needed to be fixed before the scheme could work properly. Sage aso said that the previous government (Barry?) knew all about the defective equipment but chose to do nothing about it.

  13. Sparky 13

    Surprise, surprise. No one expected the CP(TPP) from good ol Labour either. Hopefully those who blindly follow them will get the message they aint who they once were but I wont hold my breath.

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