Dangerous assumptions – importance of accurate reporting

This week, Seafood New Zealand had to make a rare call to the nation’s media to clarify assumptions that the fishing vessels with COVID-stricken crew making headlines were nothing to do with the New Zealand fishing industry.

This week, Seafood New Zealand had to make a rare call to the nation’s media to clarify assumptions that the fishing vessels with COVID-stricken crew making headlines were nothing to do with the New Zealand fishing industry.

It should not have been necessary.

The two vessels, the Playa Zahara and the Viking Bay are Spanish-flagged and at least one, if not both, were in New Zealand waters for crew changes or refuelling. They were not fishing in New Zealand waters, were not associated with any New Zealand fishing company, and were simply passing by.

Implying, by omission, that these were vessels associated with New Zealand is as like suggesting a visiting yacht might be the responsibility of the local yachting community.

What seems to have passed the public’s eye, and the media’s, is that all vessels fishing in New Zealand waters must be New Zealand flagged. This follows the Foreign Charter Vessel legislation passed in the New Zealand parliament in 2016.

Previously, New Zealand fishing companies could charter foreign vessels to fish New Zealand quota under the regulations and law of the foreign country, sometimes resulting in breaches in health and safety and labour conditions and jeopardising New Zealand’s international reputation.

A Ministerial Inquiry in 2012 resulted in legislation that required all foreign vessels fishing in New Zealand waters be under the control of New Zealand in exactly the same way that New Zealand vessels are.

In essence, a foreign vessel fishing in New Zealand waters must now be flagged to New Zealand and therefore is subject to the same legislative and regulatory requirements and enforcement as a New Zealand owned vessel.

But, back to the two Spanish flagged vessels with ill crew in our waters.

The New Zealand seafood industry understands they are getting all the help they need and offers whatever support we can to fellow mariners a long way from home.

What would help, is if the media clarified that these vessels and their ill crew are vistors to our country. They are passing through. And New Zealand, as it does well, is offering them the best help we can.

Leaving out key information in a news story, such as the fact these vessels are not associated in any way with the New Zealand fishing industry may be expeditious, rather than malicious, but it is tiresome to have to constantly request clarification of a key point of fact.

Omission is news that should have been reported. News that subsequently delivers a false or skewed perspective.

We believe news organisations have an obligation to present all material facts in order to give the public a fair representation of an issue. This ommission could have damaging ramifications. Our thanks go to those organisations that have already amended their copy to reflect our views.

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