It doesn't matter who owns the monitoring cameras on commercial fishing boats because the Ministry for Primary Industries is ultimately in charge of compliance, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.
Greenpeace New Zealand over the weekend revealed that the company that won the contract to install cameras on commercial fishing vessels, Trident, is owned by Kiwi seafood and fishing companies.
"This is like the fox guarding the henhouse," executive director Russel Norman said.
But Mr Guy said the contract was awarded following an open tender process.
"It makes no difference who owns the cameras because MPI is in charge of compliance and has access to all of the footage for enforcement," he said in a statement to NZ Newswire.
"The cameras are encrypted and tamper-proof, and there are still observers on some Snapper 1 vessels on top of the cameras that provide an extra check."
But Labour's fisheries spokesman Rino Tirakatene is accusing MPI of "passing the buck".
"The Government should be monitoring fishing vessels, not outsourcing the job to the industry," he said.
"This is a ministry in crisis. It can't even perform its core functions and is instead relying on the industry it's meant to be monitoring."
MPI said the Trident system is being trialled in the Snapper 1 region, which extends out 200 nautical miles from the Northland coast to the eastern Bay of Plenty.
It will have to meet rigorous standards and MPI staff aboard will be comparing results, inshore fisheries manager Steve Halley said.
No decision had yet been made on whether it would be used in other fisheries.
"Regardless of what organisation wins this open tender it will still be administered exclusively by MPI staff," Mr Halley said in a statement.
"That includes reviewing footage and undertaking resulting compliance work."
New Zealand's fisheries management system has been in the spotlight following the recent release of a new study that claimed the number of fish caught in New Zealand waters in the last 60 years had been grossly under-reported.
MPI has also ordered an independent review of two of its investigations into possible illegal fish dumping and the subsequent decision not to prosecute.