Government to pay up to $60 million to install cameras on commercial fishing boats

Source: 1News

Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash has announced a large cash investment from the Government to roll out cameras on commercial fishing vessels.

Nash made the announcement on TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, saying between $40 million and $60 million will used to pay for the cameras. The funding will be rolled out by the end of 2021.

The cameras will be used to monitor any breach of fishing quotas by operators.

Nash said the funding would make a real difference, but defended the delay in making it happen.

"This isn't simply a matter of just about getting a go-pro and a selfie stick and away you go, we're talking about cameras that are operating in the harshest of environment, we're talking about up to 700G of data that has to be transferred from the boat per month, from the boat to some sort of storage site, it has to be viewed.

"This is quite a complex operation."

Nash said by the end of 2024 there will be 345 cameras installed - about 84 per cent of the inshore fleet.

The first tranche would see cameras installed on around 165 fishing vessels in high risk areas, including the habitats of Hector’s dolphins, Antipodean and Gibson’s Albatross, black petrels, and hoiho penguins.

The second tranche proposes cameras on another 160 fishing vessels in lower-risk areas but where the protected species are still significant, such as fur seals, the common dolphin, flesh-footed shearwater, and Salvin’s albatross.

"The vast majority of boats who fish within our inshore waters will have a camera on, those that won't - you know the guys who go diving for paua or who pot for crayfish. There are some fisheries that won't but the majority will have cameras on them. When we do we will be world leading," Nash said.

"If this was easy then every boat in the world - there's about 4,500,000 fishing boats around the world, there's about 2000 cameras - this is not an easy process, if it was we would have done it.

"We are a leader in this space, we really are. In fisheries our fishery quota management system is held up as world leading.

"We recognise that this is a really important part of fisheries vision but if we didn’t put money into this it just wouldn't happen."

When asked for her reaction to the move, National Party leader Judith Collins said, "Well that's about time, isn't it?"

"We've always been quite pro-cameras on board the the fishing vessels but I think it's very late in the piece for them to do it."

She said the slow timing showed the Government partners had differing views on the issue. 

This week, TVNZ1's Breakfast did a series of interviews on the state of New Zealand's fisheries and what happens to oceans when we take from them.

To varying degrees, Breakfast heard of guests describe a country seriously lagging behind its global commitments to ocean protection, as well as being heavily influenced by the fishing industry in decisions on sustainability - even how sustainability is defined.

"The industry aren't defining sustainability," Nash argued. "It's our scientists, it's the experts who understand sustainability.

"Of course the fishery industry is going to argue one side, the environmental groups are going to argue another side, but when it comes down to making the really important decisions about our fishery it's about the science."

In response to the series on Breakfast this week, though, Nash said "the bottom line is we all want the same thing – that is sustainable fisheries going forward".

He said he held that in mind with every decision he makes.

"I have to make some really important decisions and of all my five ministerial responsibilities the ones I take the most seriously is when I cut fish stocks because I know what I am doing is cutting he livelihoods of men and women in our regions who go out every single day and service communities."

Last year, the Government funded 20 cameras on fishing vessels in areas that pose the highest risk to Māui dolphins, off the west coast of the North Island. 

Also last year, the Government required electronic catch and position reporting for around 830 boats in the inshore fleet.