The Government this week announced that up to 300 inshore commercial fishing vessels will be fitted with on-board cameras by 2024, at a cost of $68m.
Minister for Oceans and Fisheries David Parker said: “On-board cameras will provide independent, accurate information about commercial fishing activity. That will provide greater certainty and more evidence on which to base decisions about policy and regulation, scientific research, and fisheries management.”
“Consumers increasingly consider the environment when taking decisions to buy seafood. On-board cameras will enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted producer of premium and sustainable seafood.”
Officials are still preparing proposals on the details of the roll-out, including which fishing vessels will get cameras, where and when, as well as the level of industry contribution.
Parker said that when complete, cameras will record activity on vessels responsible for about 85% of the inshore catch by volume.
Environmentalists gave the move a mixed response.
The Green Party’s Eugenie Sage responded: “The Government’s restatement of its 2019 commitment to cameras and confirming funding is useful, but 2024 is a long time away and we’ve had many years of delays already. We need to recognise the urgency of the situation and get cameras on the fleet now.
“If the Government is going to subsidise the industry by paying a substantial part of the now $68 million estimated cost, then the funding model should be designed to incentivise rapid uptake. This needs to be sooner than 2024.
“Cameras on boats are a critical tool to ensure accurate reporting of catch and bycatch. They are needed now.”
Forest & Bird was more upbeat. “It’s been a long time coming, and has taken a ground swell of public pressure but we’ve finally achieved what will be a transformative practice for our fishing industry,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
“We’re pleased the Government has adopted an approach of prioritising fishing methods and places that put wildlife in danger. Once the inshore fleet has cameras, the rest of the fishing fleet will need to follow,” he added.