Some concerns about fishing camera policy

Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Conservationists are welcoming a government plan to introduce potentially hundreds of cameras on inshore fishing boats.

But concerns remain about the effectiveness of the proposed digital monitoring of New Zealand’s fishing fleet.

Oceans and Fisheries Minister David Parker announced in June $68million over the next four years for a rollout of on-board cameras after an initial rollout of cameras for 20 boats in the Maui dolphin habitat off the North Island in 2019.

The planned wider introduction of up to 300 cameras on boats would extend to inshore commercial fisheries around the country, Mr Parker said.

The introduction would be staged to prioritise vessels that posed the greatest risk to protected species such as Hector’s and Maui dolphins, black petrels, Antipodean albatross, and yellow-eyed penguins.

When complete, cameras would record activity on boats responsible for about 85% of the inshore catch by volume.

"On-board cameras will provide independent, accurate information about commercial fishing activity.

"That will provide greater certainty and more evidence on which to base decisions about policy and regulation, scientific research, and fisheries management."

Consultation now under way through Fisheries New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is calling for feedback on which fishing vessels ought to get cameras, how the rollout is prioritised, and the level of industry contribution to costs.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust conservation science adviser Dr Trudi Webster said yellow-eyed penguins, or hoiho, were vulnerable to being bycaught particularly where the species overlapped with set net fisheries.

For rare species such as hoiho, observer coverage needed to be high (at least 50%) to be sufficient for risk to be determined with certainty, Dr Webster said.

The trust was very supportive of the wider rollout of cameras on boats.

But one of its major concerns was whether Fisheries New Zealand was able to fully resource the reviewing of the camera footage.

There was significant time and cost involved in the process, she said.

Forest & Bird strategic adviser Geoff Keey said seabird bycatch misreporting was a serious concern.

At present, New Zealand was in the appalling situation where only estimates of bycatch were available, because fishers’ logbooks were not considered reliable, he said.

That was why there was a need for cameras on boats, to ensure that everyone understood that what was written in a logbook could be cross-checked with what was being recorded.

The new arrangement needed to be comprehensive, "across the whole fleet", he said.

His biggest concern was that under the proposal set net vessels shorter than 8m long were not among those that would carry cameras.

"From our point of view, set netting is indiscriminate," he said.

"They don’t suddenly stop catching things that they shouldn’t just because the boat is shorter than 8m.

"If it’s not going to be technically feasible to put cameras on those boats, then MPI needs to explain what they are going to do to make sure that the log books from those vessels are accurate."

During the 2019-20 fishing year about 860 commercial fishing vessels actively fished New Zealand waters, the consultation document said.

The relevant fleet was divided into 10 priority groups, with a "risk-based schedule" proposed for the cameras’ deployment.

It would begin late next year with a target completion of 2024.

Priority 1 would be inshore trawling and set netting along the west coast of the North Island, including about 58 boats.

Priority 2, which was also planned for next year, would include about 23 boats set netting along the north, east and south coasts of the South Island.

The document outlined 10 priorities in its rollouts and included a range of fishing methods.

Deepwater trawl vessels, which it said were well observed, and other inshore vessels that used low-volume or more selective fishing methods, such as potting, posed less of a risk to protected species and were outside the present discussion, it said.

Consultation closes on December 6.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz


 

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