Slave fishing – NZ’s shame

Written By: - Date published: 6:48 am, October 25th, 2011 - 13 comments
Categories: Environment, ETS, food, human rights, sustainability, workers' rights - Tags: ,

There was a really good article on slave fishing in the latest Sunday Star Times. You won’t find much praise for Talley’s on this site because of the anti-union tactics they employ in their factories. But, fair dues, they harvest their fish with Kiwi crews and have come out strongly against their competitors who try to make an extra buck off the exploitation and environmental damage wrought by the foreign charter vessels.

Decrepit foreign fishing vessels crewed with sweatshop Asian labour are destroying New Zealand’s international reputation for safe and sustainable food and are ruining our ability to catch our own fish.

These claims come in submissions to a joint ministerial inquiry into the use of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) that take 62% of the deep ocean catch and almost all of the Maori fish quota.

Their crews pay no tax, but are covered by the Accident Compensation Corporation. The vessels ignore safe-ship standards as well as employment, health and safety laws. Crew on FCVs are paid a quarter of the rates paid on New Zealand-flagged boats.

“FCVs act largely in a regulatory and compliance vacuum which leads to undesirable exploitative practices and a distorted playing field for New Zealand crew vessels,” said Nelson-based Talley’s Group Ltd.

FCVs were having a “punitive impact” by “robbing New Zealand Inc of substantial economic wealth and exposing our industry to significant risk”.

Media reports and Auckland University studies into the conditions suffered by around 2500 mainly Asian men working 26 boats prompted the inquiry.

Since quota management started in 1986, FCVs have created a wild west fishery while sending the local fishing fleet into decline.

“Most of the catch from FCVs is processed in China utilising slave labour and then resold into the world markets as ‘Produce of New Zealand’,” said Talley’s.

“This product is sold in direct competition to seafood caught by New Zealanders and processed by New Zealanders.”

The company added that FCV catch is outside normal food security checks in New Zealand.

“Instead of the New Zealand brand being associated with sustainable harvesting and responsible, trusted New Zealand processing, the brand is at risk of being associated with Third World processing standards and deceptive marketing.”

FCVs account for 90% of all seabird strikes, said Talley’s, and 70% of all deep water offences and 100% of ship desertions. That is why New Zealanders don’t work on the boats. “[Nobody] should have to work in those conditions and certainly not in New Zealand.”

Talley’s was puzzled why Maori leaders argued for FCVs when so many Maori were unemployed. The company suggested Maori should investigate “demise charter” which means hiring an empty boat and providing the crew. In contrast, FCVs are on time charter, which is like hiring a taxi.

“Influential Maori should demand a change in direction that would allow a group of Maori fishermen to demise charter a fishing craft and crew it with their young people.”

Iwi who made submissions said they could not afford to own boats, but Talley’s said that was a side issue.

FCV supporters said the vessels take fish that would otherwise be uneconomic to catch.

Talley’s said that was no justification: “If it is uneconomic to harvest a New Zealand resource under New Zealand labour conditions and costs then it is not a resource. Blood diamonds and Asian textile sweatshops use the same justification.”

That’s a bloody good statement at the end. I want to see all Maori politicians (and others) come out resolutely against the abuse of foreign workers and the environment by foreign charter vessels employed by corporate elites who have forgotten their kaupapa and their duties to their people and mother earth in pursuit of a few extra bucks.

Oh and Sealords doesn’t just try to justify its use of third-world slave ships, it also doesn’t want to pay for its carbon emissions. The iwi elite who are profiting from this ought to be ashamed of themselves.

13 comments on “Slave fishing – NZ’s shame”

  1. Uturn 1

    Talleys style of comment is a little too close to a NZ first Policy release, or an Orewa Speech. Greed and self interest are not confined a race. The arrangement implied is that Talleys, or a subsidiary, will hire out boats to “the maori”, but not “those Asian devils”. Once again it’s captain whitey at top, parasitical off the worker, who insists maori leadership will never be competent owing to a race specific greed. The article jostles the reader into thinking “maori” (whoever they are) need saving by rich whitey – the only hope. To top it off, anyone who disagrees is guilty of an environmental/resource crime.

    There might be a problem with FCV. People may be unemployed. There may be provincial solutions to that. But until a government is in power that recognises a balance between workers and employers/corporates, all that will happen is a certain group of people will become the slaves on board the vessels regardless of the leasing plan.

    Rich white men telling other races what to think and do is one of those things that tends to drive people a bit furious.

  2. millsy 2

    Boycott Sealord — buy Talley’s — that sounds like a good idea.

    FCV’s rob New Zealand of an entire industry, for example our ship building industry would be better put to use building fishing boats, rather than yachts for the superrich.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      Boycott Sealord — buy Talley’s — that sounds like a good idea.

      We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when this is actually a justifiable idea.

      Government must step in as the private sector refuses to do what is right.

  3. KJT 3

    The fishing industry is just a microcosm of the entire seafaring industry.

    We allow fishing vessels and overseas ships with little better than slave labour on our coast.

    Why don’t we just sack all New Zealanders and replace them with immigrants who will work for next to nothing and will do anything the employer says, no matter how unreasonable, to keep their residency. Wait. We do.
    “Tired, overstressed, low paid crews, cheaply built and maintained ships, inadequate or ignored regulation and excessive workloads are the norm at sea.
    Flags of convenience exist entirely so that shipping companies, and shippers, can reduce the costs: of corporate and income taxes, safety standards, operating standards, crew conditions and wages and build standards of shipping”.

    Maori in Northland are wondering when they are going to see the benefit of treaty settlements, in jobs and a future for their children.

  4. aerobubble 4

    Management remuniration. A cheap high
    throughput super market wants to attract
    car buyers because they spend more, carry
    more away at each visit. Why? Well because
    their cheap customer retention isn’t a
    problem and managers are paid bonus on
    getting sales up. So what is the unseen
    consequence? Well cyclists, managers
    who are paid to get customers buying more
    loath cyclists because they can’t
    carry anymore than they can carry on a bike.
    So how does the manager, against the good
    of investor shareholding, help themself?
    Well they make it hard for cyclists, they
    give petrol coupons to car drivers, they
    provide poor cycle locking areas that
    make those with back pain bend over, those
    who fear their bike being stolen no
    confidence there is a Security Camera around,
    and worse, they put the bike rack out of
    the way where women cyclists could easily be
    pulled into the back of a van. So how do
    managers know this, well a good manager would
    measure the bike use of the bike rack, have
    women ever used the place? Do people wince as
    they try to lock up? Are cyclists locking up
    elsewhere? But where’s the incentive, the
    manager is remunirate for upsizing their
    customer spend, not on customer service.
    Then add to the mix the contractor who
    tells customers off, like the first rule of
    customer service is the customer is always
    right (esp. when they are wrong).
    Customer service is a direct product of the
    way managers are remunirated.

    We get slaves because our parliament chooses
    to allow managements to remunirate themselves
    freely at market dictates.

  5. Afewknowthetruth 5

    Nearly everyone forgets the biggest slaves of all: the ENERGY SLAVES.

    One diesel engine on a fishing boat could easily have the energy equvalance of 1,000 people. A large diesel engine could easily have an energy conversion rate (chemical to movement) equivalent to 10,000 people.

    We are now post peak oil, which means that mechanised fish harvesting has a very short future. Depending on how quickly the financial system unravels, fuel could become effectively unaffordable within three or four years. There was a ‘trail run’ for collapse of the fishing industry in 2008 (when oil reached US $147 a barrel), when fishermen declared it was not worth leaving port because they could not be certain they would cover the cost of fuel with any fish they might catch. Brent oil is $112 a barrel today, up substantially from what it was at the start of the year and five times what it was at tthe start of the decade, but down a bit from the price that demolishes the global economic system.

    We cannot be certain exactly how this will play out but the final outcome is fairly certain: most people will not be able to afford to eat fish a decade from now.

    The other apsect worth mentioning is that ships tend to use the crappiest oil available because it is the cheapest. That means the pollution coming from ships tends to be very high in sulphur dioxide and other ‘nasties’ -the out of sight, out of mind mentality that prevails amongst industrial humans.

    • McFlock 5.1

      Dip in production, then back to canvas.

      • KJT 5.1.1

        “…most people will not be able to afford to eat fish a decade from now”.

        Most! people cannot afford to eat fish now.
        $23 per kilo and up.

        • millsy

          Not to mention the fact that the main fish type avalible in NZ is the low quality fish finger staple of hoki.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      …most people will not be able to afford to eat fish a decade from now.

      I’d be thankful as we need to stop fishing so that our seas can recuperate but I suspect that our seas will still be being raped for the rich foreigners. The people who won’t be able to afford to eat our fish will be ourselves.

  6. Cloaca 6

    Where are the Quota Holders in this debacle – running for cover ?
    Why don’t they lease/charter vessels, teach their own crews how to operate.
    They don’t have to buy, which is their argument when they can charter/lease.
    They can then teach how to man a ship and fish.
    With Maori unemployment being needlessly high here they could do something for themselves.
    Under The Waitangi settlements there is more than sufficient funds to undertake this.

  7. Herodotus 7

    When I was aware of this in July this year, I asked a union official in Scotland how they do it – Work within their teritorial waters then you are under local laws and regulations, all fisherman pay taxes, comply to Health and safety etc. Why not the same here? They are working in NZ- why should fishing bve different to any other industry

  8. QoT 8

    Talley’s also pay their women workers less and Andrew Talley thinks “some jobs are bloke jobs”, so if there’s a non-Sealord, non-Talleys option in your supermarket, pick that.

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