Cameras on fishing boats have been promised for years, and were due to roll out on 1000 vessels on July 1 – now they’ve been quietly delayed, again.
“Cameras are all about transparency. They’re all about public accountability and providing proof that the industry – as they state – have nothing to hide. Now if they have nothing to hide, why aren’t we seeing cameras on some of these big boats?”
That’s the question Newshub reporter Michael Morrah has been trying to solve since National decided they were a good idea and promised to introduce them in 2016.
But their introduction has been pushed back again and again, often quietly.
National’s primary industries minister Nathan Guy was attacked by the then Labour opposition over them; but just a few months after Labour came into office and “the whole idea around accountability and transparency is put on the backburner”, Morrah says.
Last week the introduction of cameras was quietly delayed again.
“I do not buy the argument from the Minister that there hasn’t been enough consultation; that the technology isn’t good enough; and that it’s too expensive. I just don’t buy it,” he says.
“Cameras have been talked about for years. Cameras have been trialled for years. MPI has had a whole division that’s been working on it, prepared to roll it out well before now, and still, quietly, just recently all of a sudden it’s put on the backburner yet again.
“That’s a really, really, unfortunate and bad look for the Labour government, who came into power promising big things in terms of fisheries reform.”
Morrah has covered the fishing industry for a decade. Parts of the industry, he says, have been “bitten in the past” which has led to some secrecy and reluctance to allow journalist on board boats.
He says the industry doesn’t feel as if it can do anything right here, and is constantly being criticised because of the way in which it fishes.
“On the occasion that I have been out on fishing vessels it required sign off by a lot of people before I got the green light and there was a high degree of nervousness having a journalist and a camera operator on board a Sanford fishing boat in Snapper 1 in a popular area.
“If they pulled up a dolphin or something they weren’t supposed to, and I was on board, suddenly the whole story takes a different angle.”
He thinks fears over the public perception of by-catch waste, and the indiscriminate nature of trawling, is why there’s been so much push-back over the cameras.
“I think there’s a bigger drive now than there ever has been to have an understanding of where your food comes from, how it was caught, what was harmed in the making of that food.”
In today’s podcast Morrah talks to Sharon Brettkelly about the power and the politics over this issue.
Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.