You’re back with Q+A and the panel, Claire Robison, Matt McCarten and Gareth Morgan. Gareth, we can start with you on the Ross Sea. This is something near and dear to your heart. You’ve spent a fair bit of time down there. Should we just back off and have the Ross Sea as a no-go zone for any fishing at all?
GARETH MORGAN - Philanthropist
Wouldn’t that be just wonderful?
Why can’t we?
I’d love that, um, but it’s not the reality. The 25 countries in CCAMLR, you have some fishing countries like Ukraine, Korea, Russia, New Zealand. And then you have non-fishing countries like the US, for example. The reality is, the fishing companies are going to fish it. So if New Zealand is one of those fishing companies that pulls out, it’s going to make no difference whatsoever. It will be fished. What concerns me is that New Zealand’s done a hell of a lot of work, actually. This is one of the best maintained fisheries in the world, far better than any of the fisheries around the New Zealand coast, by the way. Far better. Light years ahead. And New Zealand’s played a huge role in that, in getting those nations like the Ukraine and Russia and Korea inside the tent and, you know, doing it in a sustainable way. And the Greens - well, I call them the Green Extreme on this - are wanting to throw all that to the wind and say, ‘We want to take the holy high ground here.’ And if, at the end of the day, we can puff our chests out and say, ‘Well, we did that,’ but the Koreans and the Ukrainians go in and gut the whole fishery, which they will do within five years, these people aren’t going to take any blame. They’re unbelievably cavalier about it. I think they’re irresponsible.
From a scientific point of view, Professor Storey from Canterbury University says we don’t know enough about the toothfish and whether this is a sustainable thing or not. Are we-?
We know as much about the toothfish as we do about hapuka, which is what I fish in New Zealand. The state of knowledge is about the same. The Marine Stewardship Council, which, by the way, WWF formed, has given the toothfishery down there one of the highest marks of all fisheries. Higher than any in New Zealand. So to say that is to say no more than most fisheries. We haven’t got perfect science, but on this one, our science is as good as on many of the fisheries around New Zealand. Better, actually.
Claire, are we naïve to think if we pull out-? I mean, it’s a massive hunk. There’s 25 CCAMLR, and there’s people outside CCAMLR who are going to see some money there, see money to be made. We’re naïve to think that if we pull out, it’s going to make a jot of difference.
CLAIRE ROBINSON - Political Analyst
Yeah, I think we are. Um, the issue at the moment is around this, ‘Should we be in bed with the Americans and having a deal that is negotiated along the same lines’? But, as Gareth was saying, the Americans aren’t fishing there, so they can be on the moral high ground, they can say it’s all about conservation, whereas we can’t. Again, it’s those parallel tracks. You know, you’ve got the idealistic, and you’ve got the more pragmatic, economic. And at this stage, under this government, this is a government that’s going for the more pragmatic approach. So, yeah, the jobs, the fisheries, the industry, that’s what is going to be our priority over simple and idealistic conservation values.
Matt, are we wanting a buck each way on this one? We’re looking like we’re conserving, but we’re not conserving the bits where there’s lots of fish to be had. We are wanting our fish and to eat it too, aren’t we?
MATT McCARTEN - Unite Union
Yes, of course we are, and I think most New Zealanders would come on the side of conservation. I think the idea that we’re preserving it for future generations should mean no fishing, but they’re going to be in there anyway. We’ve got to be at the table. We’ve got to get whatever agreements we can and then trade that for enforcement. Because there’s no point in having rules without enforcement. I think most New Zealanders would go along with that. I don’t think the Greens are saying that we’ll just throw it all away. And that would be totally irresponsible. But I think that most New Zealanders, like us in the room, they want enforcement. Because if the cowboys are going in there, you know, the pirates, well, who is going to stop it? Well, it would be quite good for our Navy, our frigates to be down there, actually, instead of sitting over in Devonport.
This does come back to the environmental vs industry argument, doesn’t it, Claire?
Absolutely. And as I said before, this is a government that acknowledges conservation, it acknowledges green issues, but it doesn’t say that it’s its number-one priority. If you were the Green Party, of course it’s going to be your number-one priority. But this is not a government that does so. Interestingly, you know, Shane Jones - that could have been a government representative sitting up there talking to you. He was so much along the lines of what the government might say.
I was going to say Greens and Labour so at odds over something like this. That is something new as well.
Yes, yes, but we need to understand the individuals at play here. What you’ve got is you’ve got the Green Party, and you’ve got Shane who is the Sealord man. You know, he was the chair of the fisheries. So he’s got a vested interest, like Mark Solomon had. You know, certain things - which cap have you got on? Is that Labour’s position, or has Shane sort of got a view of his history? ‘We want to catch fish. We want jobs for our people, and, you know, the Greens are stopping us from doing it.’ Shane Jones has got an argument going for a century around the world when it comes to fossil fuels, when it comes to fisheries. It’s the same argument.
Gareth, is there a compromise to be reached in Hobart? What sort of a deal could be struck?
Well, we’ve got to have all 25 countries agree, otherwise there’s no deal. And if there’s no deal, then the consequence of that eventually will be it’s open slather, and you can say goodbye to the toothfish.
So what is likely to happen in Hobart?
So I think what will happen is the New Zealand proposal, which is about a 16% reduction in the fishing effort which is there now, I think that or a variant of between that and the US will get the nod. And, you know, that’s important, because it keeps the Koreans and the Ukrainians with some control on their fishing. This is a very rugged environment down there, so they’re better to go down and just hoover the whole bloody lot up and get out of there. That’s what they’d love to do because it’s a high-cost fishery. We’re stopping that, so we should be applauded for what we’re doing.
All right. We will leave it there.