Progress is being made with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) towards the considered and staged implementation of Integrated Electronic Monitoring and Reporting System (IEMRS).
MPI’s high level objectives - to verify self-reporting of catches, to collect more information on catches, and to do so electronically - are supported by Fisheries Inshore New Zealand (FINZ) and Deepwater Group (DWG).
However, industry remains concerned with MPI’s impossibly tight timeframes; with the proposed details that appear to be unnecessary, unworkable or that will make operations illegal; and with the costs, which are as yet unknown.
DWG and FINZ have asked MPI to slow down the pace of change, to take time to get the essential details right, to ensure that these are workable for each sector, and to stage the implementation of IEMRS.
Industry have also asked MPI to actively engage with experienced practitioners in the industry to ensure the management of New Zealand’s fisheries is better off, not worse off, with IEMRS. We all need to get the settings right.
This approach was supported by representatives from recreational and environmental groups at the last Implementation Advisory Group meeting.
MPI currently propose that all trawlers larger than 28 metres will be required to electronically report catches and positions under the new requirements from 1 October 2017; the remainder of the fishing fleet will be required to comply from 1 April 2018. Implementation of cameras will be required on all vessels commencing 1 October 2018.
FINZ chief executive Dr Jeremy Helson advised that there are aspects of the new regulations that will need to be revisited and that the circulars (which provide details on the operational requirements) need to be aligned with the regulations and be introduced on a sector-by-sector basis.
“The current one-size-fits-all approach across the fishing industry will not work, any more than it would for the agricultural industry,” Dr Helson said.
“Differences between the regulatory requirements for high country sheep farming and glasshouse horticulture are no less than those between large factory trawlers and small trailer-borne vessels.”
“MPI’s proposed requirement for catch information to be entered immediately may be fine for factory trawlers but it may not be possible for many of the 230 vessels that fish with a sole crew member.”
Industry has asked MPI to convene a working group of experienced people to sort through the identified issues.
“This working group would be expert-based, but would also contain senior MPI staff with a mandate to form a MPI view based on the working group’s discussions.”
“This group would be tasked to form a view about the best approach to implement IEMRS for each of the different fisheries sectors and to provided workable solutions that meet both MPI’s requirements and the industry’s ability to deliver.”
Dr Helson said in order for IEMRS to work, changes to policy settings will be required prior to the implementation of IEMRS in inshore fisheries.
Under the new regulations, there is no clarity about what fishers should do if a system fails. Complex electronic systems are prone to failure at sea and the regulations raise the potential for tens of thousands in fines – and the responsibility falls on the operator to prove that there has been a technical malfunction.
“We seek clear and non-contradictory operational requirements, including expressly provided contingencies when systems fail.
“These should be realistic and are not punitive.”