Commercial fishing vessels at greatest risk of encountering the rare Māui dolphin will be required to operate with on-board cameras from 1 November, as the next step to strengthen our fisheries management system.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash have announced new funding in Budget 2019 will ensure our fisheries are managed sustainably, compliance is encouraged, and monitoring and verification are increased.
Jacinda Ardern says one of the priorities of the Wellbeing Budget is to support regions and businesses adjust to long-term environmental challenges facing our economy. “Enhanced fisheries management helps secure a sustainable future for our marine species.”
“Māui dolphins are critically endangered. It is estimated just 63 adults remain in our waters. Their habitat stretches from Northland to Taranaki and overlaps the inshore fishery where commercial vessels catch species like snapper, tarakihi, gurnard and john dory.
“It is crucial we act to protect this fragile population of marine mammals. On-board cameras will give us independent, accurate information about the impacts of commercial fishing in this area. It will encourage compliance and ensure fishing practices are sustainable and verified.
“Enhanced fisheries management sits alongside other efforts to deal with long term environmental challenges. This includes a proposed network of marine protected areas off the Canterbury and Otago coast, legislation to tackle greenhouse gases, phasing out single-use plastics, greater funding for predator and pest control, and support for sustainable tourism growth.
“The on-board camera programme encourages our fishing industry to meet expectations from consumers and overseas regulators about how seafood is caught and how we protect species such as Māui dolphins.” says Jacinda Ardern.
Stuart Nash says the Budget sets aside $17.1 million over four years for purchase, installation and maintenance of the cameras, as well as the costs of storage, review and analysis of the footage.
“It is a significant investment and allows us to move quickly alongside industry to implement change,” says Mr Nash.
“Commercial trawlers and set netters working in Māui dolphin habitat will be required to carry cameras because their fishing methods pose most risk to dolphins.
“It will affect up to 28 vessels although the final number requiring cameras will depend on whether they continue to fish in the area using trawl or set nets. The final number may be fewer as some of these vessels may choose to fish elsewhere.
“Other vessels that work the area use methods like long-lines, purse seine nets and potting that pose a lower risk and they will not be required to carry cameras at this stage.
“The roll-out of cameras in the Māui dolphin habitat allows time to refine systems and processes before a wider camera programme is considered across more of the commercial fleet.
“Currently many vessels in the affected area carry an independent Fisheries NZ observer on board to monitor activities. This monitoring will continue after cameras are installed while we test and refine the system.
“It is important to emphasise that cameras by themselves will not stop a dolphin being caught in a net. But international evidence from Australia, the U.S., Denmark and the U.K. shows cameras drive positive change and greatly improve the quality of fishing data.
“In Australia 75 vessels have operated with government-funded cameras since 2015. Other jurisdictions, such as British Columbia, ran four-year camera trials with the government working alongside the commercial fleet to take the time and effort to get it right.
“Overseas experience has demonstrated the value of on-board cameras, but also made it clear we need to invest time, effort and resources for the greater public good.
“On-board cameras are the latest step in an ambitious programme to protect the marine environment and support sustainable fisheries. By December 2019 all commercial fishing vessels will be reporting their catches and positions electronically and in close to real time. This will give us better data about what they catch and where.
“Legislation is also likely to be introduced later this year after public consultation on the rules that govern commercial fishing. We sought feedback on practices around what fish can be brought back to port and what fish can be returned to sea, as well as penalties and offences.
“Greater protection for Hector’s and Māui dolphins will be achieved through a review of the Threat Management Plan (TMP) to be released for public consultation shortly.
“A renewed TMP will give us better information for fisheries management. It will drive cultural and behavioural change to ensure our marine environment is managed effectively, now and in the future,” Mr Nash says.