Forest & Bird is celebrating the Government’s announcement to put cameras on over 300 commercial fishing boats.
“It’s been a long time coming, and has taken a ground swell of public pressure but we’ve finally achieved what will be a transformative practice for our fishing industry,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker has announced plans to roll out cameras across the bulk of the inshore fishing fleet. This means inshore fishers using methods that harm protected wildlife like long lining, trawling, and set netting will have cameras to monitor catches and practices.
"Forest & Bird has campaigned on this issue for many years, and we’re delighted that most of New Zealand’s inshore boats will now be fishing transparently and more carefully. This has been incredibly important to New Zealanders, and we should all be proud to have played a very large part in moving the government and the fishing industry to this point. It's an important moment for New Zealand's ocean wildlife."
“Minister Parker’s announcement is great news for Aotearoa New Zealand’s seabirds and marine mammals, and is important for the industry to re-establish trust with New Zealanders. Too often what happens at sea is out of sight and out of mind. There is a chronic, widespread problem of illegal misreporting that needs to end."
Areas with endangered species including the habitats of Hector’s dolphins, Antipodean and Gibson’s albatross, black petrels, and hoiho penguins will also be covered by camera monitoring.
“We’re pleased the Government has adopted an approach of prioritising fishing methods and places that put wildlife in danger. Once the inshore fleet has cameras, the rest of the fishing fleet will need to follow,” says Mr Hague.
Examples of misreporting include:
- Government data on seabird bycatch reporting released under the Official Information Act shows that some sectors of the fishing industry are up to nine times more likely to report bycatch if there was an observer on board.
- Forest & Bird obtained data under the Official Information Act showing penguin bycatch in the set net fishery was almost exclusively reported on vessels with observers.
- In Australia, when they put cameras on boats, reporting of bycatch and discarding increased between three and seven times, depending on what was being reported.
"Forest & Bird supports financial support for inshore fishers to install cameras; we know many in the inshore fleet own no quota and fish to very tight margins. Funding should be time limited to encourage early adoption by the industry.
“The new graduated penalty regime accompanying the introduction of cameras on boats must only apply to fishers with cameras or observers. Only fishers who are fully transparent should have the benefit of more graduated penalties.”
"The public wants a fishing industry it can trust and be proud of. Cameras on boats is an important step towards achieving this," says Mr Hague.
Long fight for transparency and integrity
May 2017: Then Fisheries Minister Nathan Guy announces funding for GPS monitoring and electronic logbooks and was going to be "followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from 1 October next year".
November 2017: New Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash postpones cameras on fishing boats.
Mid 2018: Forest & Bird launches its Zero Bycatch campaign and Pathway to Zero Bycatch report.
July 2018: Fishing companies write to Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash saying they do not support cameras on boats.
January 2019: Rollout of cameras delayed until August.
June 2019: Government announces roll-out of cameras on a small number of vessels in Māui dolphin habitat starting November 2019.
June 2020: Rollout delayed to until October 2021.
September 2020: Government announces intention to proceed with a budget bid to roll out cameras starting October 2021.
June 2021: Government announces roll out of cameras on the inshore fishing fleet to be completed in 2024.
Key species at risk from fisheries bycatch
Hector's dolphins, one of the world’s smallest dolphins, are unique to New Zealand and are only found around the South Island. Although once commonly seen from many beaches their numbers are now so low that it is rare to find them riding the bow waves of kayaks and boats, and they are hardly ever seen from the shore except at Curio Bay where they sometimes enjoy playing with surfers. Despite their small numbers they are still being caught in set nets, and the recent set net bans failed to cover their southern habitats.
Antipodean and Gibson's albatrosses
These large magnificent wandering albatrosses are close to extinction and their populations are declining rapidly. We know they are caught and killed in New Zealand waters as well as on the high seas by tuna and swordfish long liners. Earlier this year, a single New Zealand boat caught four Antipodean albatross off the East Cape.
The mainland hoiho population is in free fall. With less than 200 nests last season the future for hoiho is grim. Every bird counts, but every year hoiho are caught in set nets. We don't know how many hoiho are killed as the only time death is reported is when there are observers on the boat, and with so few observers it is impossible to know what is happening at sea.