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Pressure on MPI to widen fish probe

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/05/2016

There's growing pressure on the Ministry for Primary Industries to widen its independent inquiry into the alleged illegal dumping of fish.

MPI this week announced there would be an independent review of how it handled its own investigations into the possible illegal discarding of fish, and the subsequent decisions not to prosecute.

The review would cover an internal MPI investigation carried out in late 2012 and early 2013, known as Operation Achilles, and a second investigation, Operation Hippocamp.

Operation Achilles looked at a number of fishing vessels operating out of South Island ports and its report, leaked to media, said crew members were dumping fish - and not recording it - despite the fact they knew they were being caught on monitoring cameras.

MPI's director general Martyn Dunne says it is important the public believes the ministry was regulating the fishing rules and holding people to account.

But conservation group Sea Shepherd and recreational fishing group LegaSea are among those calling for greater transparency around the review.

While Sea Shepherd was pleased MPI was now investigating, it said the scope of the review needed to be broadened.

"Years of illegal fishing was able to thrive in an environment of secrecy and deals. For the regulators and fishing companies to regain the public's confidence the review needs to be held in the public domain," New Zealand director Michael Lawry said.

Meanwhile, LegaSea spokesman Richard Baker says only a full review of New Zealand's quota management system will be sufficient to allay public concerns.

"MPI cannot be trusted to define the boundaries of its own investigation," he said.

"To have the director general for the organisation that is at fault holding the reins of the investigation is not appropriate and smacks of a further attempt to cover up ongoing and systemic irregularities."

Mr Baker wants Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy to step in.

Earlier this week, a new study was released that claimed the number of fish caught in New Zealand over the last 60 years had been grossly under-reported.

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