New fishing regulations bring opposition in Southland
Some southern fishermen say new government regulations for commercial fishing boats could be put small operators out of business.
From October 6, new measures will be rolled in to ensure that all commercial fishing boats are fitted with both GPS equipment and cameras, to improve monitoring of catch levels and to help prevent any illegal activity.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the changes would protect the sustainability of New Zealand's fisheries, and "give us arguably the most transparent and accountable commercial fishery anywhere in the world".
However, some southern fishermen fear the new rules could also bring about a range of negative consequences.
As well as the costs incurred from buying and maintaining the new equipment, it could also inadvertently reveal many fishermen's jealously guarded marks (fishing spots).
Direct Fish and Oyster Company owner Willy Calder said the proposals had not been well received by fishermen in Bluff.
"I haven't met a fisherman in Bluff who agrees with it."
Calder said there was a real fear fishermen's marks could be compromised by the introduction of GPS equipment.
"Every fisherman's got their pet spots.
"Often it's taken people years to find those spots, and if suddenly everyone knows where they are, you're going to get hammered.
"Once you start giving information away electronically, anyone can hack into it.
"It's fishermen's livelihoods, and often it's their own personal spots that keeps their heads above water."
Calder said the new rules also had the potential to put smaller operators out of business.
"The wee fishermen will be put out of business.
"Every boat will have some cost; [the big operations] can afford it but smaller operators will be put under pressure.
There was also some resentment over the level of surveillance to be enforced, Calder said.
"The 24-hour surveillance makes us feel like criminals; it's bloody terrible.
"We've got good fish inspectors in Southland; we could use more of them instead.
"At the moment, we've got too many in officers and not enough on the ground.
"Those cameras should be on those whiz kids in Wellington to stop them from coming up with more stupid ideas."
Riverton fisherman Cyril Lawless said he was worried about the increased potential to be caught out unwittingly by regulations.
"The whole thing is just a flaming nightmare scenario the way it's looking at the moment.
"The main reason I'm against it is that the regulations need to be sorted before the new ones have been brought in.
"There's that many rules and regulations at the moment; it's impossible not to break any when we go out to sea."
Lawless also expressed concerns that information about fishing spots could end up in the public domain, particularly through channels such as the Official Information Act.
A Ministry for Primary Industries spokesperson said steps had been put in place to ensure the new regulations would not compromise commercial fishing businesses.
"Position information will be secure, and MPI has no intention to make information about individual vessels' fishing locations public.
"MPI wants to make the systems as affordable and easy to use as possible, and is working with providers to make systems suitable for different types of vessels.
"We appreciate that this is a substantial compliance cost for a small business.
"However, this technology is important for continued sustainable management of our fisheries."