Prior to the new government taking power there was a string of internal reports leaked, revealing widespread dumping and under-reporting of commercial catches, with no enforcement action or prosecutions undertaken by the authority charged with safeguarding New Zealand’s fisheries.
Now, a further report, revealing widespread dumping and under reporting of hoki catches has joined the sorry list. The Ministry of Fisheries 2011 report, which was made public by Greenpeace recently, casts doubt on industry claims that the lucrative hoki is being fished sustainably.
According to the NZ Herald the report showed that companies like Sanford and Talley’s had been providing misleading information about the amount of fish they were catching and the species they were targeting.
The report said Talley’s potentially failed to report an estimated 780 tonnes of hoki in one season after using an unlawful system of weighing cartons of fish.
Large discrepancies between the carton weights checked by fisheries officers versus those reported by fishing companies also meant that around 280 tonnes of hoki was not reported in monthly returns. Of the under-reported hoki, 90 tonnes was by Sanford, 59 tonnes by Amaltal, and Independent 49 tonnes.
The report showed under-sized fish, or those the boats did not have quota for, were hidden by being ground in to fish meal for fish and poultry farms. It said up to 2000 tonnes of fish was disposed of in this way in a single season.
Another issue highlighted in the report was that of illegal dumping of fish, with 1541 tonnes of small fish illegally dumped in the West Coast hoki fishery. Sanford was also accused of fishing in an area that was home to juvenile hoki that needed protecting in order to build up future stocks.
World Wildlife Fund spokesman Peter Hardstaff wanted to know why the ministry had not made the report public, after it has had access to it for seven years.
“This report is deeply disturbing for a number of reasons and not least because the hoki fishery has been held up as a standard bearer for sustainable fishing in New Zealand”.
In fact, the commercial industry has proudly marketed the hoki fishery as being certified internationally as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council. This certification expires on September 1 of this year, and it will be interesting, given the information just released, to see if the certification is renewed. If it is it renewed, you have to ask yourself just what MSC certification is worth.
Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash said it was “totally unacceptable” behaviour by the companies. He said he could not guarantee that dumping and discarding of fish was not still occurring, but he was confident that practices had changed since the 2011 report.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for past behaviour because it was unacceptable not only to me as the minister but also to the vast majority of New Zealanders and those in the fishing industry.”
Several days later the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced that it had started the process of pro-actively releasing all of its historical risk assessment reports on its website. This was followed, a few days afterward (probably co-incidentally), by the announcement of the retirement of Martyn Dunne, previous Director-General of the MPI.
11 July 2018