Fishing advocates call for inquiry into quotas

A fishing advocacy group says the Ministry for Primary Industries is suffering from industry capture. Photo/ Jason Oxenham
A fishing advocacy group says the Ministry for Primary Industries is suffering from industry capture. Photo/ Jason Oxenham

A fishing advocacy group says leaked documents show the Ministry for Primary Industries isn't prosecuting commercial fishers despite knowing about widespread fish dumping for years.

LegaSea said the papers highlight deeply rooted problems with the management of fisheries.

The recreational fishing group and others called for a Commission of Inquiry into the Quota Management System (QMS).

Leading investigator, Michael Heron QC, was appointed in May to investigate why no prosecutions were taken against commercial operators who were caught on video dumping quota species.

LegaSea said there were obvious and longstanding issues with the systme that must be addressed.

One sticking point for the group was the video surveillance and monitoring of the commercial fleet.

"MPI has recently awarded the contract for this work to an industry-owned company. Another issue is the close relationship between MPI and commercial fishing interests where often the lines of separation are blurred."

LegaSea insisted the only reasonable response was a Commission of Inquiry.

"Blatant dumping of fish is bad enough, however, the real issue is that officials identified years ago that discarding is a systemic failure of the current system that they have not be able to address since day one of the QMS.

"MPI also know that the level of discards is so great that it is impacting on stock levels and the marine environment," said spokesperson Scott Macindoe.

"If it wasn't for the draft reports being leaked to an independent researcher, the New Zealand public would be none the wiser."

Macindoe said the Minister, Nathan Guy, has been poorly advised by his department.

"An external party, such as the State Services Commission or Department of Internal Affairs, needs to be brought in to review the current situation," he said.

LegaSea believes MPI suffers from industry capture, where it is no longer overseeing the industry but rather partnering with it.

"We want an abundant fishery in the future so we are reclaiming our fisheries for the people of New Zealand. If we need to hasten that process by supporting a Commission of Inquiry then we're in boots and all."

- NZ Herald

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