There is a growing clamour for a new, broader inquiry into fish dumping in New Zealand following a damning investigation which revealed that Government officials failed to prosecute fishers for illegally throwing out tonnes of healthy fish.

Influential recreational fishing group Legasea has added its voice to calls for further investigation, saying that a Royal Commission of Inquiry should be launched.

Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First, and environmental advocates have already called for a broader review of the issues raised by Michael Heron, QC, in an inquiry released last week.

The fishing dumping issue met the test for a commission of inquiry, Legasea's spokesman Scott Macindoe said, because it was unprecedented, involved a significant Government lapse, and had generated "considerable public anxiety".


But the Government ruled out a new investigation today, saying that the 30-year-old Quota Management System (QMS) was already being reviewed.

The Heron report, which was commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), concluded last week that the ministry's decision not to prosecute five commercial fishers who were caught on camera dumping illegal fish was "flawed".

It also shed further light on the scale of fish dumping among commercial fisheries. In one instance, half of the 42 vessels being monitored by ministry observers during a programme in 2009 had thrown out quota fish.

In a separate investigation, in 2013, the captain of one vessel freely admitted to discarding fish and failing to record his catch.

"I've been a criminal all my life, you just haven't caught me," the captain said.

"If I was to record every species that I ever caught in my whole fishing career mate I would need a bloody, a list of books a mile high."

Following the Heron report's release, MPI head Martyn Dunne said it was time to "move on" and that there was no value in "apportioning blame" on individuals.

No one in the fishing industry has received more than a warning and no one at MPI has faced any sanctions in response to the issues raised in the Heron report.


Macindoe said "the only reasonable response" was a commission of inquiry.

"Blatant dumping of fish is bad enough," he said.

"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."

The Government was pressed on whether there would be further action in Parliament today.

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew said no further reviews would take place.

"We have the operational review [of the QMS] underway and I am sure through that process that changes will be made."

The Heron report revealed the chain of events which allowed skippers to escape prosecution for "consistent and deliberate" discarding of fish in New Zealand waters.

In 2009, ministry observers were placed on fishing vessels operating in the South Island to check for any accidental catch of the endangered Hector's dolphin.

A senior ministry official directed the observers to ignore discarding and misreporting of quota fish on the vessels.

This meant no action was taken against any of the vessels in the programme, despite half of them being observed throwing out quota fish.

"The direction and resulting impact was no doubt in good faith and designed to honour the statements of MPI that the observers would only be there for the purposes of Hector's dolphin interactions," Heron said.

"It was, however, unfortunate and inappropriate in my view."

The senior official's decision not to crack down on fish discards had a knock-on effect, complicating the ministry's ability to prosecute in later investigations.

As a result, when five fishing vessels were caught in full view of cameras dumping fish off the coast of Timaru in 2012, no prosecutions followed.

The captains were instead given a written warning - a decision which Guy has said was "regrettable".