Fishing leader slams Kermadec decision
Nelson fishing industry leader Charles Hufflett has slammed the Kermadec sanctuary decision as a short-sighted move aimed at bolstering a government with no understanding of the industry.
"How come that New Zealanders wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning to find that this has been announced? It's incredible."
Hufflett, who pioneered New Zealand's tuna industry in the early 1980s and remains head of Nelson-based Solander Group, running a tuna fleet out of Fiji, said he was appalled by the decision, made without industry consultation.
"They're closing off an area which is five times the size of the North Island, twice the size of New Zealand's total land mass, forever."
This would have given Prime Minister John Key "a warm fuzzy feeling" when he announced the creation of the giant reserve before the United Nations in New York but showed the arrogance of a third-term government, Hufflett said.
The Kermadec zone had been a benthic protected area for a decade, meaning no contact with the seabed was allowed. The only affected fish would be tuna species that passed through and were already subject to the quota management system.
"It closes off for New Zealanders in the months the fish are passing through, October, November, December, when there are no or few tuna on the New Zealand coast."
Hufflett said Key and the environment minister, Nelson MP Nick Smith, had "no idea" how the quota management system worked.
He said the Kermadec area was currently subject to very little fishing effort, but provided an opportunity to grow the New Zealand pelagic [tuna] industry.
The Government should address the excess fishing capacity of hundreds of boats fishing right up to the border of New Zealand's exclusive economic zone around the Kermadecs, Hufflett said, but wouldn't because that fleet was "mainly Chinese".
Taking our the Kermadec zone was "the massive removal of a property right", yet wouldn't change the permitted catch tonnage, which was controlled by the quota management system.
Hufflett said Solander had been planning a New Zealand-based pelagic venture "and they've basically shut out three months of the fishing calendar. We can't do that".