Gulf Livestock 1: MPI launches independent review into livestock exports after tragedy

The Ministry for Primary Industries has launched an independent review into the assurances it receives for the transport of livestock by sea.

The review is in response to the ship Gulf Livestock 1, which had 43 crew, including two New Zealanders, on board when it sank in a typhoon in the South China Sea last week. The ship had left Napier in August and was carrying almost 6000 cattle.

The New Zealanders - Scott Harris, 37, and Lochie Bellerby - two Australians and 36 Filipino crew members are missing. Three crew were found; two were alive but one man was unconscious and later died.

On Wednesday evening, the Japanese Coastguard called off the search for the missing crew from the ship.

Mike Heron QC will lead the review, which is expected to take about a month.

It will look at the assurances MPI receives when it considers an application for an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) required for exports of live animals.

While this is underway the temporary suspension of cattle livestock exports will remain in place.

"At the heart of our decision to temporarily suspend cattle livestock exports is a commitment to helping ensure people and animals on livestock export boats are safe," MPI director-general Ray Smith said in a statement.

"We are working closely with exporters, who have provided assurances that animals currently on pre-export isolation farms are in good condition and well looked after."

According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, 28,000 cattle are awaiting export and are currently on four quarantine farms.

MPI said the animals were being well looked after and no decision on their future has yet been made.

National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee former chair John Hellstrom has said he believes the temporary ban will be lifted to allow for the cattle to be exported, but after that he wants the practice stopped.