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New Zealand to Use On-Board Cameras to Modernise Fisheries Management

The Fisheries Amendment Bill, which passed its final reading recently, aims to strengthen and modernise the management of the country’s fisheries. According to the Oceans and Fisheries Minister, David Parker, the Bill will help keep the ocean and coastal ecosystems healthy and resilient while supporting the role of fisheries.

The Bill’s provisions for monitoring cameras aboard commercial fishing vessels and changes to discarding rules will help incentivise better commercial fishing practices and more selective targeting of fish, a statement said. The use of onboard cameras is a key component of the government’s fisheries system reform. It is in line with the rollout of cameras on vessels operating in core Maui dolphin (a subspecies of Hector’s dolphins) habitats, which commenced in 2019.

The cameras will inform fisheries management decisions, helping ensure the sustainable use of fisheries nationwide. It’s a step towards a more data-driven, integrated, and responsive fisheries management system. The cameras provide independent information about what goes on at sea. They help verify catch reporting and monitor fishing activity by commercial fishers, to encourage compliance with the rules.

The monitoring cameras make commercial vessels land their catch instead of dumping unwanted fish at sea. There have been witnesses that report dead fish floating in the ocean, which were dumped by commercial fishers. They dump fish if they exceeded their quota or caught a type of fish they do not want or cannot sell.

The Bill introduces a more graduated offence and penalty regime. This means that penalties on commercial fishers will be more proportionate and appropriate to the size of an offence. Under the Bill, all fish caught, whether they are a Quota Management System species or not, must be reported. All QMS species also must be landed, unless there is an exception set by the Minister.

Graduated penalties will allow all factors of the offence to be considered to better reflect the consequences of offending. There will be a four-year implementation period for reviewing exceptions to the landings and discards rules to ensure that fishers will have time to transition to the new rules.

Speaking about the protection of Hector’s dolphins in October 2021, the government had said that the wider rollout of cameras will see up to 300 more inshore vessels fitted with on-board cameras by the end of 2024. The vessels affected by the camera proposals contribute approximately 85% of the total catch from inshore fisheries. The Hector’s and Maui dolphins Threat Management Plan was reviewed in 2019, with upgraded fishing regulations that seek to protect these dolphins. It took effect in 2020.

The government recognises the importance of and the range of pressures facing the oceans and fisheries. Fishers are part of local communities, and they support the local economy and other local businesses, Parker stated.

The New Zealand Fishing and Aquaculture industry recorded US$1.7 billion in revenue this year. As per data from July, the market size of the industry was projected to increase by 2.4% over the year. On average, over the last five years, the industry has grown 1.6% per year.

The nation has a stellar reputation for conservation and green initiatives. The University of Canterbury is exploring a seven-year project to integrate renewable energy into Aotearoa New Zealand’s electrical grid commencing in two years. It aims to turn the country’s century-old power grid into an optimum system for New Zealand’s needs by 2050.

Additionally, researchers at New Zealand’s Eastern Institute of Technology are testing cutting-edge technology that is hoped will significantly improve the economic and environmental outcomes of soil management for the agricultural and horticultural sectors. The new technology measures natural background gamma rays (which are given off by soils) and converts that into detailed soil maps.

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