Fishing industry tried to limit Government access to footage of undersized tarakihi - documents

New Zealand's fishing industry initially attempted to try and limit what footage the Government could access in a crucial cameras on fishing boats project that is due to begin, documents show.

The cameras will be used to monitor undersized tarakihi caught by commercial trawlers.

The idea is that it wants to review the video to make sure the number of small ones caught by trawl vessels is being recorded accurately.

The fishing industry agreed, but in its original proposal obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act, it said it would be an "industry-owned and managed project", the footage would be "owned by the fishers", and industry-funded auditors would review 30 percent of the footage. Fisheries NZ would then be provided with the same 30 percent of video, but only if various "scope, confidentiality, data access, intellectual property" documents are "agreed in writing" first.

"These confidentiality agreements are all about the industry trying to continue to draw its veil of secrecy across what's going on at sea, and it's not acceptable," Forest and Bird's chief executive Kevin Hague says.

Former Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash wrote to inshore industry bosses in February last year saying "a number of critical elements require more attention to ensure the proposal is both credible and robust".

"I expect that Fisheries New Zealand will be able to have access to any footage on request," he said.

New Minister David Parker agrees, saying his ethos is one of transparency. 

"If the Government is going to rely upon a trial, it has to be able to be satisfied and to satisfy the public that the trial is robust."

The plan is that tarakihi fishing boats will have the cameras fitted within two months, and the industry says it is cooperating. 

Fisheries Inshore New Zealand told Newshub the ministry will now have "full access to all of the footage".

The industry also points out that the cameras are being installed by skippers voluntarily to help rebuild the fishery.

The Government regulator, Fisheries New Zealand, says that "recent discussions" with the inshore industry have confirmed that it will have access to camera footage on request.