Leaked MPI report reveals 'widespread' under-reporting in fishing industry

A leaked Government report has revealed under-reporting and massive waste in another high-value New Zealand fishery.

The MPI compliance report targeted 13 trawlers in the Southern Blue Whiting fishery, which brings in around $26 million a year for New Zealand.

It found almost 3000 tonnes went unreported due to poor practice when cutting fish.

Rules state they're supposed to be cut directly behind the pectoral fin, so just the head is thrown away - but the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) documented shoddy, wasteful cuts.

Up to 2678 tonnes was misreported as a result - that's almost 10 percent of all fish landed by the vessels being monitored.

"Three-thousand tonnes is 3 million kilograms. It's a huge amount of fish that's been under-reported," Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said.

The 2013 compliance report described the miscut issue as "widespread". The report was based on what was called "Operation Trois", an MPI investigation that relied on port inspections and data recorded by observers between August 2012 and April 2012.

The Tomi Maru 87, chartered by Timaru firm Aurora Fisheries, was one of the worst performers. Newshub has approached Aurora Fisheries for comment, but the company is yet to respond.

As well as miscuts, MPI photographed whole fish and fillets being chucked out with offal and not reported. 

Surimi (minced fish) which fell on the floor of the vessel was simply flushed overboard and not quantified.

"What that means is that we are killing far more fish than is being reported, and that fishing companies don't have qouta for a vast amount of fish that they're actually catching," Mr Norman said.

The report also documented carton weight under-reporting; vessels were "fishing beyond processing capacity" which led to fish being damaged, and assessing the weight of glaze or frozen water added to fish was inadequate.

"What we have here is evidence of systematic law breaking and completely unsustainable practices," said Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague.

Sealord was one of the companies identified as misreporting. It says conversations with MPI were taking place to ensure consistency in reporting, cutting and weighing methods.

Independent Fisheries also under-reported catch, but its managing director said "in some instances" they declared more fish than was actually caught.

An observer on one Sealord-chartered vessel noted damaged fish were "sent to meal without quantification, when observers were absent".

Sealord says that issue's been rectified, but Forest & Bird questions how this fishery and hoki, in which massive under-reporting was revealed last week, can still be considered sustainable.

"The sustainability certification for hoki and Southern Blue Whiting, at least, has no validity whatsoever," Mr Hague said.

Despite the many issues identified, no one was prosecuted over Operation Trois. MPI's Manager of Compliance Investigations Gary Orr said on Tuesday that Trois was about identifying compliance risk.

"As a result of this work, industry changed its processing procedures, which resulted in more accurate reporting," he said.

Following various reports being leaked to Newshub and other media, MPI says it will now be releasing other historical reports.