Foreign flagged fishing boats to be banned

TRACY WATKINS, DANYA LEVY AND MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 15:58 22/05/2012
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Oyang 77
OYANG 77: A Korean-owned fishing boat at the centre of illegal fish dumping claims.

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Foreign flagged fishing boats are to be banned over labour, safety and fisheries concerns.

The Government announced the surprise decision this afternoon amid ongoing controversy over abuses on the boats.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said foreign-flagged fishing vessels would no longer be able to legally operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period.

"The Government's decision sends a clear message that New Zealand is serious about the fair treatment of fishing crews, the safety of vessels and its international reputation for ethical and sustainable fishing practices," the ministers said.

Boats will have to be reflagged with New Zealand flags which will require them to meet New Zealand standards and requirements.

Legislation will be introduced to amend the Fisheries Act by the end of the year.

The changes will effect the 12 out of 27 New Zealand fishing companies which use foreign chartered ships.

Carter said the Government acknowledged there would be an economic impact on the companies affected but detailed analysis of the cost had not been completed.

Last year all 32 Indonesian crew on the Korean Oyang 75 walked off the ship alleging sexual and physical abuse.

A New Zealand joint ministerial inquiry earlier this year found Korean fishing charters were damaging New Zealand's international reputation.

The Ministry of Primary Industries has laid eight charges of illegally dumping fish overboard against the Oyang 77 which is owned by Korea's largest fishing company, Sajo Oyang.

Its sister ship Oyang 75 already faces 26 charges of dumping fish.

The Korean Embassy said yesterday an inter-departmental delegation would arrive in New Zealand over the next few weeks to investigate concerns with Korean-owned fishing ships.

Carter said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was today briefing the Korean government on the changes.

Appalling conditions on foreign charter boats first became public when on August 18, 2010, 38-year-old Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 sank at 4.40am in calm conditions near Bounty Island, 740 kilometres east of Otago.

It went down when its skipper rejected warnings his net was too large.

The deaths, which include that of the skipper, were recently before the Coroner's Court. No findings have yet been published.

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Oyang's tragedy turned the spotlight onto the foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) which catch fish worth $650 million a year, the majority of it for Maori iwi quota, in an export industry worth an annual $1.5 billion.

Many of the boats - particularly the Koreans - are old and the around 2500 men from poor third world nations are beaten and forced to work for days without rest, earning between $260 and $460 a month.

Four months after Oyang's sinking, 31-year-old No 1 Insung from Korea, operating out of Bluff, sank in the Ross Sea with the loss of 22 men.

The Government's decision today will not affect foreign boats chasing toothfish in New Zealand's Ross Sea.

- Stuff

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