21 February 2013 – A four-year phase-out of foreign-flagged fishing vessels in New Zealand waters introduced in May 2012 may not be enough to fix “a broken industry”, warns the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ). The Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Bill, which passed its first reading on 15 February, means that employment and vessel safety can be considered when registration applications of foreign-owned fishing vessels are assessed and that registration of non-compliant vessels can be suspended or cancelled.
MUNZ argues that the bill does not go far enough and needs clear provisions for effective enforcement in order to end the exploitation that has been allowed to fester for years in the fishing industry, one of the country’s major export earners. It also insists that it should include commitments to create jobs for New Zealand workers.
MUNZ general secretary Joe Fleetwood commented: “The industry was deregulated to inflate the profits of New Zealand fishing corporates and recent regulation changes have not yet fixed the deep-rooted damage. Seafarers on fishing vessels continue to pay the price by having their lives put at risk and their rights abused. This should be of concern around the world, where global retailers sell New Zealand fish products.
“We will continue to fight for better wages and conditions for all and to press for the right of New Zealand workers to work in their own fishing industry.”
Liz Blackshaw, leader of the ITF/IUF (International Union of Food, Farm and Hotel Workers) fisheries programme, added: “The move to phase out foreign flagged vessels is positive but needs to go further and be rigorously enforced to bring about real change for seafarers in New Zealand’s fishing industry. We will continue to support MUNZ to ensure that seafarers can work safely and with decent conditions.”
The ITF’s New Zealand office has helped MUNZ provide support for foreign crews by investigating abuses, getting back payment of wages and ensuring safe repatriation to their home country.