Fishing industry's cover up request 'outrageous'

  • 17/01/2018

Forest and Bird is slamming the commercial fishing industry's "outrageous" request for distressing photos of discarded fish and dead seabirds to be suppressed.

Chief executive Kevin Hague told the AM Show it's likely the industry didn't expect its request to Government to be made public.

"But that's why we made it so," he says.

The commercial fishing industry wants to stop public access to videos and images of fish being discarded and dolphins, sea lions and seabirds being scooped up in trawl nets.

The industry has asked the Government to change the law so that the Official Information Act could not be used by journalists, competitors and other groups to access such information, saying it could damage New Zealand's reputation.

But Mr Hague says that's simply ignoring the real problem.

"This is an industry that has standard practice, ways of fishing, that kill or maim albatross, penguin, other seabirds - many of which are endangered, dolphins, sea lions.

"They are typically pretty bad at reporting any of those by-kills even though it's a legal requirement. That's why we need to have cameras on boats."

But Dr Jeremy Helson, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand Chief Executive, denies it's a cover-up.

"It's not about trying to hide information, it's about trying to protect people's rights and interests."

The document raises concerns about video revealing secret fishing spots, and that "potentially embarrassing" footage of paua divers getting undressed and changed into their wetsuits would be held by MPI.

Read the fishing industry's letter to the Ministry for Primary Industries

But Mr Hague believes the industry instead needs to work with conservation to adapt practices that are harmful to animals.

"What the fishing industry has done again and again is position themselves to defend the very worst practices.

"They know if the public can see these images of what's actually going on out there pretty routinely with precious endangered species actually dying, the public will not accept it and demand change."

University of Auckland researcher Glen Simmons told The AM Show they "don't want [their] dirty laundry aired in public".

"That's actually been confirmed to me by fishermen.

"Fisheries is a public resource, we own it. And surely as the owner of a resource we are entitled to see how our resource is being treated."

MPI says it has reviewed the industry's proposal but is yet to make a decision.