Fisheries Minister rejects industry plan to hide dead dolphins from public

Forest & Bird is welcoming the call by Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash to reject a fishing industry proposal to exempt footage from fishing boats from the Official Information Act.

“New Zealand has lost faith in the management of our fisheries and we are pleased to see the Fisheries Minister draw a line in the sand over industry transparency,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

Two days ago, Forest & Bird released images of dead dolphins, New Zealand sea lions, and yellow-eyed penguins, along with a letter from key leaders in the fishing industry to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) seeking to prevent the public from ever seeing similar images of by-kill and fish dumping.

On 4 July 2017, a range of commercial fishing organisations wrote to the Ministry of Primary Industries seeking a change to the law to prevent the public release of information collected by MPI about fisheries activities.

The letter from George Clement of the Deepwater Group; Dr Jeremy Helson from Fisheries Inshore New Zealand; Storm Stanley from the Paua Industry Council, Tim Pankhurst from Seafood New Zealand and Daryl Sykes from the New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council requested that, “the Fisheries Act be amended to clarify the purposes for which the [electronic monitoring] information (and other information on commercial fishing activities) will be obtained by MPI and to expressly provide for the OIA to not apply to this information.”

“In plain English, what the industry told the Government is that catching endangered penguins, dumping entire hauls of fish overboard and killing Hector's dolphins looks really bad on TV.  Well, the solution is to stop doing it, not to hide the evidence.”

“It’s hard to think of a more credibility damaging activity than trying to change the law to so the rest of us can’t see what’s really happening out there, and it seems the Minister agrees," says Mr Hague.

Today Minister Nash rejected the proposal saying he was yet to see a compelling case to change the Official Information Act and there were already protections under the Official Information Act for privacy and commercial sensitivity.