Nine foreign charter fishing vessels have so far opted not to fish in New Zealand waters rather than meet new rules requiring them to re-flag to New Zealand under new rules which kick in today.

The Government changed the rules for foreign-owned vessels chartered to fish in New Zealand after evidence about ill-treatment and "slave-like" conditions faced by workers on some vessels.

Those change include a requirement for foreign vessels to be "flagged" to New Zealand while in its waters to ensure New Zealand had jurisdiction over areas such as employment and health and safety laws.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said so far nine vessels had re-flagged and three were in the process of doing so and could not fish in New Zealand waters until then. A further nine had decided not to fish in New Zealand waters. The re-flagged ships were from Japan, Korea, Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Dominica.

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The changes were made after a ministerial review in 2012, which was prompted by an Auckland University research into the conditions on foreign vessels in New Zealand.

The law changed in 2014 and set a deadline of May 1, 2016 for vessels to reflag.

Mr Guy said the move was aimed at addressing concerns about "questionable" safety, labour and fishing practices.

Other measures included observers on board all foreign-owned vessels, independent audits of charter parties, and compulsory New Zealand bank accounts for crew members.

The re-flagging process carried out by Maritime NZ requires operators to ensure the vessels comply with New Zealand maritime rules and the Health and Safety at Work Act, as well as for crew to be appropriately qualified.