Govt putting snapper stocks at risk this summer

The Government has put East Coast snapper fisheries at risk by prematurely slashing the number of observers charged with monitoring and preventing commercial fish dumping, and undersize fish and wildlife being caught, the Green Party said today.

Information obtained by the Green Party shows the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) cut the number of fisheries observers on trawlers by 60 percent in 2015/16 in the East Coast snapper fishery, which runs between the North Cape and Cape Runaway. Observers were removed before the completion of a trial of cameras to electronically monitor fishing vessels. The trial saw 80 percent of the installed cameras fail in the first three months.

“This ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to policing the fishing industry is putting snapper at risk," said Green Party fisheries spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“In New Zealand we should be able to head out on the water and find snapper. But that relies on MPI making sure the snapper stocks are not being run-down and abused by commercial operators.

“If MPI doesn’t do its job properly, that makes it harder for Kiwis to go out and catch something for themselves.

“MPI needs to put independent observers back on the trawlers. Kiwis should be confident that if there’s fish dumping going on and undersize snapper are being caught, these guys will be caught.

“It's farcical that the Government gave Trident Systems, a company owned by the fishing industry, the right to install and operate these new cameras, which are meant to monitor the trawlers.

“There’s a clear conflict of interest, and this gives a strong whiff of a regulator captured by the industry.

“The Government has rushed to get rid of observers before it even knew if these cameras worked. They’re putting cost savings and the fishing industry ahead of the health of our snapper, and that’s not good enough,” said Ms Sage.

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