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Korean fishing boats 'damaging NZ's reputation'

Published: 4:44PM Thursday March 01, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Government will not ban Korean charter fishing vessels from New Zealand despite a ministerial inquiry revealing their presence is damaging New Zealand's reputation.

Accusations of abuse and poor pay prompted a ministerial inquiry into foreign fishing operations in New Zealand.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter says action is already being taken to improve conditions on the ships, including placing an observer on all foreign fishing boats.

"What we need to do is give everybody the chance to adhere to new, more stringent, standards that the New Zealand Government imposes, but if any operator cannot adhere to those standards then frankly they do New Zealand reputation internationally a disservice," said Carter.

The Ministerial Inquiry was launched into foreign chartered vessels in July last year following claims crew members have been working under poor and unsafe conditions on fishing boats in New Zealand waters.

The issue came to a head when three Indonesian crew members were killed after the Korean-registered fishing ship Oyang 70 capsized and Primary Industries Minister David Carter sank 800 kilometres southeast of Dunedin in 2010.

ONE News contacted the four biggest users of foreign charter vessels in our waters, including Southern Storm Fishing which hired the Oyang ships.

None would comment on camera about the Inquiry's 15 recommendations, six of which the minister says are now being implemented.

"The recommendations include updating the Code of Practice and strengthening the immigration approval process - both of which will help ensure better conditions for workers on FCVs," said Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson.
"We will also be adopting a recommendation that the New Zealand fishing companies chartering foreign vessels have to show the Code is being followed. This is a significant move as it puts the onus on those companies, rather than the Department of Labour, which currently has to prove the Code has been breached." 

But recommended law changes that would ensure New Zealand criminal law applies on the ships won't be implemented any time soon. And nor will the recommendation that New Zealand companies be the employer of the foreign crew, therefore ensuring better wages and conditions.

The Maritime Union says action needs to be taken now, with both the United Kingdom and United States now monitoring the way fish is caught in New Zealand waters.

"How long do we want to wait because the information is getting out there now and questions are being asked all the way to our New Zealand markets overseas," said Maritime Union communications officer Victor Billot.

Labour has questioned whether the departments are adequately resourced to deal with abuse on FCVs.

"The horrific stories of crew being beaten into submission have appalled New Zealanders and damaged our international reputation," said Labour spokesperson for labour issues Darien Fenton.

"Already, the Minister for Primary Industries has said that there will be no extra funding for the Department of Labour and the Ministry of Fisheries. These two departments are already required to operate on a shoestring.
"Upholding these recommendations must be about more than a paper trail. We need people on the ground ensuring that these workers get fair treatment."

Fenton said the Government needs to set down a course of action to address the report in full.