Foreign fishing charter rules amended

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 14:49 26/07/2013

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A bill to end human rights abuses aboard boats fishing in New Zealand waters has been amended to allow Japanese boats to chase one of the world's most endangered fish.

New Zealand boats already fish the luxury and expensive southern blue fin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) that is mostly sold to Japan.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has put southern blue fin tuna on its red list for threatened species.

Japanese boats have cheaper labour rates and tariff advantages - and the amended bill will allow them to retain them.

Parliament's primary production committee has today released its report into the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

It was introduced after revelations of extensive human rights and labour abuse aboard foreign charter boats fishing in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

It requires all foreign boats operating in New Zealand waters to be reflagged to New Zealand by 2016.

The Government had backed down on the original bill and it has now been amended to let foreign boats operate if that is deemed to "be in New Zealand's interests".

The bill drew opposition from the New Zealand Japan Tuna Co Ltd, managed by the Solander Group. They have the right to catch southern blue fin tuna in New Zealand's EEZ.

They said their four vessels with foreign crews were fishing in New Zealand for only 35 days out of voyages lasting about 285 days.

They said they could not reflag and deflag within the time available.

Catching the fish is governed by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Blue Fin Tuna.

Japan has refused to accept a ban on southern blue fin and the commission is a compromise.

In its report to Parliament, the select committee says reflagging as proposed would result in some countries such as Japan being unable to "comply with the new requirements because of domestic legal complications".

To deal with the issue, the committee has amended the bill to allow non-New Zealand flagged vessels the right to fish tuna.

The Green Party in a minority view says they do not agree with the exemption being granted to fish for the tuna.

The exemption is unnecessary as New Zealand-registered vessels are already chasing blue fin.

"The exemption for fishing 'that targets a tuna species' also allows misuse, by the looseness of the term 'targets'," the Greens say.

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- Fairfax Media

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