New digital fishing rules could cost thousands

All commercial fishing operators will have to invest thousands to install cameras and tracking devices on their boats, under new rules announced by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). 

The push towards electronic monitoring of the industry follows concerns about widespread illegal practices, including the dumping of fish and misreporting of catch.

The rules will not only apply for large trawl vessel, but all boats - even small ones - that are registered as being commercial. 

Fishers will need to pay for new geospatial positioning systems (GPR), which will send back the locations of vessels to MPI. 

Trawl boats 28 metres and over will need to have the tracking gear by October 1 this year, and all other vessels will need it installed by April next year. 

All commercial vessels will also require cameras by October 2018. The cost for the tracking systems, cameras and maintenance of the gear could cost as much as $20,000 per operator. 

Even land based fishermen, like eelers who use quad bikes to get to their fishing spots in streams, will have to carry tracking gear. However, they won't need camera gear. 

Those involved in hand-gathering, like free divers who collect paua, will also be exempt from having to install cameras. 

MPI will pay for the cost of data for location transmissions, but it will be up to the operator themselves to pay for everything else, including the hardware and its installation. 

The changes also see the end of the old paper-based reporting system and the introduction of 'e-log books', where fishers will be required to transmit their catch reports via computer, tablet or phone. 

MPI says the new requirements will give both New Zealanders and consumers from around the world confidence that fish caught in New Zealand waters are being managed and caught sustainably. The regulator also says where evidence of illegal activity is uncovered, it will be used for prosecutions.