Private fishing observer bid slammed

Last updated 10:22 02/05/2013

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A bid by a powerful consortium of fishing companies to have private observers replace government observers on fishing boats would be a disaster for the fishery, the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) group says.

It was reported this week that the Deepwater Group Ltd (DWG), which includes all deepwater fishing quota-holders, is opposing the Ministry of Primary Industries creation of an expanded observer service.

The consortium said the companies should provide observers privately, and the government was creating a "Frankenstein's monster in the form of a large and bloated government observer service".

But ECO co-chair Barry Weeber says the DWG proposal should be rejected.

"Private observation would be a disaster for the management of NZ fisheries," he said.

Weeber said private observation had been tried around the Auckland Island squid fisheries in the 1990s but later science found that the reporting rate of the industry on sea lion deaths was significantly different from the reporting rate by government observers.

Private observers reported half the number of deaths.

"The observation programme run by MPI is a world-leading system and compares highly with overseas models," he said.

Weeber said it was crucial that the information collected by observers was of a comparable standard across all fishing boats and that accurate long-time series of data was essential for stock-assessment purposes.

"Recording catch comprehensively is a skilled job and one for which it is necessary to employ and train scientific observers," Weeber said.

"On deepwater vessels observers are a relatively cheap way of obtaining data on the fishery and are essential for good fisheries management."

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