13 Nov 2016

Fish boat cameras fail in first months

8:32 pm on 13 November 2016

Up to 80 percent of the cameras installed on snapper boats to police fish dumping failed during their first three months.

The Ministry for Primary Industries controversially awarded the contract to electronically monitor fishing vessels to Trident Systems - a company owned by the fishing industry.

Hours of footage were recorded as part of Operation Achilles, which found discarding of blue moki and elephant fish.

The government has been accused of turning a blind eye to illegal fish dumping. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube

Trident Systems chairman Jeremy Fleming said the cameras initially installed had "real problems" with water getting into cables and condensation in the cameras.

He said 70 to 80 percent of cameras failed during the first three months of the contract and a lot of footage was not taken.

Mr Fleming said video coverage was at a "pretty satisfactory" level six months into the contract.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, all New Zealand commercial fishing vessels will be fitted with cameras and GPS systems by 2018, under a draft ministry plan designed to to stop illegal practices.

The ministry has faced accusations it has turned a blind eye to the dumping of catches.

It admitted last month illegal fish dumping was so widespread that over half of inshore fishers would go out of business if rules were properly enforced.

Fishing cams fall short - Labour

Earlier, Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said a trial of the cameras had worked well and he hoped they would help stop fish dumping.

He said monitoring the footage from about 1200 boats would be a big operation, but it would be worth it.

"You can imagine 1200 vessels out there with cameras running all of the time, it's a huge amount of footage.

"So we will need to tool up the back office to, obviously, analyse all of this footage."

The Labour Party said the government had missed the boat on its plans to stop over-fishing and fish dumping.

Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene said the reforms were underwhelming and disappointing, and the ministry needed to focus less on punitive measures and more on prevention.

"MPI really needs to look at how they set those total allowable limits, how they can adjust them in a timely fashion when, for instance it's patently obvious that there is a lot more of a particular fish stock that may be getting caught."

He said the government should instead allow for fluctuating fish numbers to make it easier to comply with catch limits.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs