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No to foreign boats harvesting our fish

Written By: - Date published: 1:11 pm, August 5th, 2011 - 49 comments
Categories: capitalism, food, sustainability - Tags:

Fisheries workers bearing a 12,000 signature told a select committee yesterday the horror stories of abuse of foreign workers on fishing vessels, whose low wages displace Kiwi workers, how the focus on low-cost, low-quality that is wasting our fish stocks, and how this is caused by Kiwi corporates putting a quick buck ahead of their people and their environment.

The most galling aspect of this is that iwi are the major owners of fishing quotas. I find it hard to believe that the Maori leaders who fought for so long to have their rights to their taonga restored under the Treaty ever thought that a new corporate iwi class would emerge who would rather save a few bucks by getting virtual slave labour from asia to do the fishing, rather than employ their own people, who are suffering from double digit unemployment and the social malaise it brings.

If iwi and other quota holders won’t show some responsibility, the answer is to legislate that any worker working within our EEZ has the same wage and working condition rights as any other worker in New Zealand and make it illegal for a quota holder to contact with a foreign company to do the fishing. Quotas should also be subject to confiscation by the government if quota holders do not manage the fisheries responsibly for maximum value.

49 comments on “No to foreign boats harvesting our fish ”

  1. queenstfarmer 1

    Quotas need to be reduced anyway. Fish stocks are at getting to critically low levels. There simply may not be much of an industry left soon if something isn’t done.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Actually, fishing in NZ waters needs to be completely stopped for at least 10 years and preferably 20. Fish are reasonably long lived and need the time to regenerate. After that quotas need to be very strict and set to only provide what NZ uses.

      • queenstfarmer 1.1.1

        A blanket ban might be a bit extreme, but for some species a moratorium sounds like it is needed.

        • mik e 1.1.1.1

          We just need marine reserves for breding grounds to allow fish stocks to be sustainable!

          • KJT 1.1.1.1.1

            Yes. We need to fish more sustainably worldwide for the benefit of both the fisheries and ultimately, the fishers.

            Look at the knights compared to Barrier.

      • Jim 1.1.2

        That will never happen. Fishing is NZ’s 4th biggest industry.

    • Joe Bloggs 1.2

      @queensfarmer – I hate to argue with a fellow traveller but current NZ practices for managing fisheries resources are amongst the best in the world.

      Witness the recovery of Western Hoki stocks since 2006 when industry participants reduced their Hoki TACs of their own volition.

      New Zealand’s success in this area was documented in a report in 2009, “Rebuilding Global Fisheries”, which was co-authored by 20 international fisheries and marine scientists, and New Zealand came right at the top.

      Hoki recruitment has contined to grow significantly since then and is now one of 104 fisheries worldwide certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which by its own description works “with partners to transform the world’s seafood markets to a sustainable basis”.

      The industry is also seeing growth in recruitment of orange roughy – another species that was thrashed 20+ years ago – and there are recovery strategies that are showing positive results in other stocks that were depleted during the last century.

      Sure there were some shonky practices in the 1970s and 80s and more overfishing between 2001 – 2004 but since then the Ministry of Fisheries has overhauled its TACCs to the overall benefit of the fisheries.

      The labour practices still leave something to be desired. But that’s different to managing the TACCs.

      • KJT 1.2.1

        It may be the best in the world. In contrast to very poor practices in most countries.

        Though a suspect some industry propaganda..

        Closer examination shows it has been less than successful in maintaining fish stocks.

        Not to mention the continuation of bottom trawling. Which is roughly equivalent to bombing your cow paddocks monthly.

        The labour practices stink. To put it mildly. But they are indicative of the level that the RW want to take all workers to.

        • Joe Bloggs 1.2.1.1

          There’s no point bottom trawling for fish that swim a kilometre above the seafloor – which is where most commercial species are found.

          In case you missed my comments – and I take issue with your blase comment that it’s been less than successful in maintaining fish stocks – hoki recruitment is growing, roughy recruitment is growing, snapper recruitment is growing – all species that were savaged back in the 70s and 80s.

          You can’t judge todays fisheries management by the practices used 30-40 years ago. Unfortunately that legacy seems to colour the impression that most of us have of fisheries management.

          I don’t disagree with your comments on labour practices though. I’ve been able to get onto the Russian and Korean boats since the late 1970s and from what I see of their labour practices today not a lot has changed in the past forty years

          • KJT 1.2.1.1.1

            While you are right about headline stocks like roughy and snapper, where TACC’s were reduced in response to bad publicity for the industry, the management of many other species is doubtful.

            Many commercial fish are bottom trawled, including roughy.

        • Jim 1.2.1.2

          Bottom trawling is the only way to catch a majority of NZ species. And not always as damaging as is made out. How else are there thousands of tows carried out over the same stretch of ocean floor for decades?

      • queenstfarmer 1.2.2

        Well I confess to only having general knowledge of the issue. I have read some pretty alarming stuff about fisheries local and international, but hopefully the industry is acting in the longer term interest than the shorter term.

        I’ll add it to my ever-growng list-of-things-to-find-out-more-about.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    I find it hard to believe that the Maori leaders who fought for so long to have their rights to their taonga restored under the Treaty ever thought that a new corporate iwi class would emerge who would rather save a few bucks by getting virtual slave labour from asia to do the fishing, rather than employ their own people, who are suffering from double digit unemployment and the social malaise it brings.

    I don’t, the scum invariably rises to the top in a corrupt socio-economic system and capitalism is corrupt.

    The Great NZ Fishing Scandal. Documentary. If you haven’t watched it then do so.

  3. randal 3

    If they take all the big fish does that mean they are selecting for future small fish?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      No, it means that they’re selecting for no fish at all.

    • Joe Bloggs 3.2

      Randal – taking the big fish is known as “fishing down”.

      Fishing down takes out the older, larger fish, which allows younger, faster-growing stock to dominate. The idea is to achieve a quick-growing population, producing more harvestable stock, while making sure that there are sufficient mature individuals to keep it reproducing at a sustainable level.

      The goal is to fish down to a population that will produce a maximum sustainable yield year after year, providing a reliable long-term source of income for the seafood companies, while ensuring that the species continues to thrive at a healthy level.

      It’s been the technique used on Hoki in the past five years and although it seems counter-intuitive it’s actually helped the hoki fisheries to grow significantly over the same time.

      And no they don’t wreck the seafloor doing this – hoki for example will be around 2-300m down in seas that are 1-2km deep – if you drop your nets to the seafloor you catch nothing – no point in shooting the nets if you don’t catch anything.

      • Jim 3.2.1

        Joe you sound like you know what you’re talking about. Except you don’t. Most hoki caught in NZ waters are bottom trawled. Normally at around 500m.

        • Joe Bloggs 3.2.1.1

          Yeah whatever Jim – Hoki can be found from 10m down to 1000m – and the fishos will trawl anywhere from 200m to 800m depending on where you’re shooting your nets

          • KJT 3.2.1.1.1

            Hadn’t you better ask the fishos?

            Last time I was trawling we were bottom trawling deep for roughy on the Kermadec rise seamounts. Caught buggerall because of the damage done by trawlers of all nationalities over the short time since the fishery started.

            You could see the damage in the net cams.

            Pair trawling in Bream bay for a couple of weeks wrecked the area for years afterwards.

            Bottom trawling should be banned!

  4. tc 4

    The wealthy elite iwi are amongst the worst offenders, probably the same folk backing the MP.

    Oz has pulled most of it’s commercial fishing that from its coasts leaving it mostly as ‘recreational’ now. We should be considering the same as part of our self sustaining food supply.

    The niche exporters catch to sell (mostly US/europe/middle east markets) and run quite a sustainable model into the top end of the markets but these buggers are pillaging the oceans.

  5. randal 5

    and not only do they pillage the protein but they wreck the seafloor and the habitat too.
    But hey dude, thats progress. If we want to hit the 7,000,000,000 people mark and supply more customers for mainstreet retailers then this is the way to go.

  6. ak 6

    …make it illegal for a quota holder to contract with a foreign company to do the fishing.

    Oath. Exactly the sort of bold policy Labour needs. Chuck in a continuous coastal “queen’s chain” and a special fund for mainland sanctuary work, and you might be surprised at the poll reaction.

    • Jimmi 6.1

      Also the sort of bold policy the Mana Party could run with. An issue that strikes to the heart of their core constituancy of Iwi quota holders and fisheries workers.

  7. grumpy 7

    Can’t argue with any of this……

  8. insider 8

    Hmm very old and established international law/law of the sea might interfere with your plans. Those things are very difficult to mess with.

    We can impose minimum vessel standards but not wages. And we don’t necessarily have full sovereignty over the EEZ which could allow us to do those things anyway, which is why it is an EEZ and not territorial waters.

    • felix 8.1

      “we don’t necessarily have full sovereignty over the EEZ”

      Really? Then what’s the first E stand for?

      • insider 8.1.1

        That’s irrelevant. Territorial waters have more powers associated with them than EEZs under the law of the sea. So to say “we should ban x,y and z” is pointless if there is no underlying authority.

        • felix 8.1.1.1

          So do you actually have any info on what power we have over these waters or not?

          • insider 8.1.1.1.1

            Well you could look up the UN convention on the Law of the Sea which lays it all out. A simple example of the difference, we can’t prevent foreign powers laying submarine cables through the EEZ, but we can in territorial waters.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1.1

              insider wishes to promote the neoliberal agenda of sovereign government learned helplessness.

              A simple example of the difference, we can’t prevent foreign powers laying submarine cables through the EEZ, but we can in territorial waters.

              If that activity can be defined as a national security threat, yeah you can.

              Watch how China does it and learn.

              • insider

                It’s not me, it is specifically written into international law – get off your arse and look it up like I did

                • Reality Bytes

                  New Zealand’s EEZ covers 6,682,503 km2. Sources vary significantly on the size of New Zealand’s EEZ; though recent publications gave the area as roughly 6,682,503 km2… Or in other words the 6th greatest oceanic territorial area, coming in just after USA, France, Australia, Russia and the UK.

                  People’s Republic of China’s has an exclusive economic zone of 877,019 km2 for comparison.

                • felix

                  Starting to get the impression you’re not much of an insider at all.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.2

        insider is actually correct.

        EEZ = Exclusive Economic Zone

        It’s not territorial and so we can’t dictate rules over it as we can out to the 12 nm territorial limit. Although, that said, I do believe proposals to claim out to the continental shelf or 200 nm as territory are going through the UN. It makes sense to do so if anybody is going to claim economic rights over it. I think the US is opposed as it would curtail their spying on other nations.

    • Josip Blow 8.2

      Surely if we are able to impose quotas on fishing within the EEZ we could also determine who can fish this quota?
      I vaugely recall hearing that Korea only allows imports of fish where those fish have been caught by Korean registered vessels, and they would seem to be the worst offenders in this part of the world anyway. Are there any other reasons why we haven’t stopped this practise earlier or just convenience for quota holders and profit maximisation?

      • Joe Bloggs 8.2.1

        That’s simply not true about Korean fishing imports.

        They have tariffs to protect their local industry and there’s a common feeling amongst the Koreans that seafood from the local Korean waters tastes best but there are no constraints on where the fish comes from nor on who catches it.

        Just one example – the NZ greenshell mussel industry – grown in NZ, harvested by NZers, processed by NZers, and around 3,000mt a year is exported to Korean.

        Another example – salmon – the third highest value seafood export in NZ – and all locally grown and processed, without Korean fishers.

    • KJT 8.3

      We can certainly impose minimum standards and wages on any vessel owned or registered in NZ.

      It can also be a requirement that any vessel fishing from NZ ports, fishing NZ quota or owned by a New Zealand company pay minimum wages.

      All it requires is the Government to say so.

      The Australians sometimes do it with cargo vessels trading on their coasts, and so did we in the days when jobs for New Zealanders came ahead of exploiting underpaid foreign crews for a quick buck.

      It shows the lack of commitment of the Maori Moneyocracy to their own young people that they would rather employ cheap foreign labour than train up the many who could be employed in Maori owned fisheries.

      Not to mention the NZ coast-wise cargo carried by foreign ships.

      If it is such a good idea, why don’t we replace our farmers with cheaper Chinese immigrants.
      Wouldn’t moan as much and might even be appreciative enough, of living in NZ, to pay taxes.

      • insider 8.3.1

        I don’t think foreign ships can trade the coast here or in aus. They can do multiple drop offs in a trip, like oil tankers do, but they can’t act as coastal traders.

        As for the Maori moneyocracy maybe young moari would rather go to university and the money earned from the quota funds that

        • KJT 8.3.1.1

          They act as coastal traders on our coast all the time.

          With the occasional trip to Australia or the Islands to maintain the fiction they are only carrying NZ coastal cargos as part of their international voyage. As the rules require.

          Ocean Bright. Mearsk Radford MOL Summer etc etc.

          There are now only two New Zealand coastal ships, apart from those in Cook Strait.

          Who do you think is carrying the rest of the coastal cargo?

          I am sure the many young Maori who are currently out of work or have no money to go to University would like to see some of those funds.

  9. felix 9

    Lot of votes in protecting our fish stocks. Every recreational fisher takes this seriously, as does every greenie.

    It also happens to be the right thing to do.

    • queenstfarmer 9.1

      Yes, it also makes business sense, in the longer term though not in the short term (and hence, therefore doesn’t make business sense to many…).

      Unfortunately successive Govts appear to have been incredibly weak-kneed over this.

  10. vto 10

    If foreign workers can manwoman our boats then why cant they manwoman our factories?

    This ranks up there with the best of them.. ..

  11. millsy 11

    Spot on article Eddie.

    I have always been perplexed at iwi’s tendency to offshore fishing work while their people are rotting away on a benefit or in jail.

    Mind you we cannot only blame Maori. We have been a traditional seafaring nation, and a maritime career has been shut off as an option for too many youth.

    You hear about these old timers who left school at 15, 16 and started out as a cabin boy and eventually got their masters ticket, its a pity our shipping industry has been stripped bare, and that is not an option anymore.

  12. grumpy 12

    Come on, get to the crux of this.

    Haven’t you guys noticed that the spokesman for the Fishing Companies is the same guy as for the Whaling companies – and corporate iwi.

    Our very own Glenn Inwood – reputedly otherwise known as “Winston Smith”.

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