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Fish industry-owned cameras OK: govt

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/05/2016

The government isn't worried that the company that owns the monitoring cameras on commercial fishing boats is itself owned by seafood and fishing companies.

Greenpeace New Zealand over the weekend revealed that Trident, which won the contract to install cameras on vessels in the Snapper 1 fishery, is owned by industry players like Sanford and Moana Fishing.

"This is like the fox guarding the henhouse," executive director Russel Norman said.

But Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the contract to install cameras on snapper boats working off the Northland and eastern Bay of Plenty coasts was awarded following an open tender process.

"It makes no difference who owns the cameras because the Ministry for Primary Industries is in charge of compliance and has access to all of the footage for enforcement," he said in a statement to NZ Newswire.

"The cameras are encrypted and tamper-proof, and there are still observers on some Snapper 1 vessels on top of the cameras that provide an extra check."

While Trident provides a summary of the monitoring information to MPI, MPI retains access to the footage and other information in its totality.

"While Trident provides a summary to MPI because that's convenient, MPI have access to all of the unbroken data any time they want," Prime Minister John Key said.

But Labour's fisheries spokesman Rino Tirakatene is accusing MPI of "passing the buck".

"The government should be monitoring fishing vessels, not outsourcing the job to the industry," he said.

"This is a ministry in crisis. It can't even perform its core functions and is instead relying on the industry it's meant to be monitoring."

MPI said Trident will have to meet rigorous standards and MPI staff aboard vessels will be comparing results.

No decisions have yet been made about whether the system would be used in other fisheries.

New Zealand's fisheries management system has been in the spotlight following the recent release of a new study that claimed the number of fish caught in New Zealand waters in the last 60 years had been grossly under-reported.

MPI has also ordered an independent review of two of its investigations into possible illegal fish dumping and the subsequent decision not to prosecute.

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