Fishermen welcome delay to data-gathering

Stuart Nash
Stuart Nash
Commercial fishermen, including many in the South, have welcomed postponement of the installation of cameras and electronic data-gathering equipment on commercial fishing boats.

Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash last week instructed the Ministry for Primary Industries to look at options for ``slowing down'' installation of the ``integrated electronic monitoring and reporting system'' (IEMRS).

``This is an important initiative to get right and we will not be following the hasty timetable set out by the previous government,'' Mr Nash said.

Both deepwater interest groups and southern fishermen welcomed the timetable postponement, after calling in August for a review of the timetable.

Requirements brought in on October 1, that vessels over 28m have catch and position reporting equipment remain in place, unchanged.

What is being postponed is the roll-out on all vessels of GPR (geospatial position reporting) and e-log books in place by April 1, and the installation of cameras on vessels from October 1 next year.

Southland-based fisheries industry spokesman Bill Chisholm said when contacted yesterday he welcomed the postponement, having aired concerns at a meeting with 50 other fishermen in Invercargill in mid-August.

``We're very much committed [to the proposed] monitoring ... but cameras are just not necessary for every commercial boat,'' he said.

He supported the use of cameras in areas such as those where gill-netters worked and Hectors dolphins were known to be found.

However, it was not practical or necessary to have cameras on every commercial vessel, noting the costs of buying and running cameras ran into tens of thousands of dollars for some boats, plus the charging of annual fees.

He understood about $32 million had been set aside for the programme, and believed the postponement would not only benefit fishers but be better value for taxpayers.

``The new minister has decided to work with the industry, while the previous minister was just doing whatever he wanted,'' Mr Chisholm said.

He expected Mr Nash would begin talks with fishermen in the new year.

In a release from SeafoodNZ yesterday, its deepwater group, which represents commercial fishermen in New Zealand's deep-water fisheries, also supported Mr Nash's decision to slow down the IEMRS implementation.

``The Labour Government has committed to implementing digital reporting and monitoring systems that are cost-effective, fit for purpose, and provide real fisheries management benefits,'' the statement said.

Deferring implementation did not threaten the sustainability of the deep-water fisheries, which made up about 80% of New Zealand's commercial catch.

Deep-water fishing vessels had implemented position reporting since 1994 and electronic reporting since 2010.

``These data are transmitted to the ministry to monitor fishing activity,'' the statement said.

About half of the deep-water trawlers have government observers on board to verify catch information and in high-risk fisheries that was up to 100% of vessels, the statement said.



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