1 December 2007

No warning of Minister’s announcement of high seas fishing closure

Industry was surprised to learn of the Government’s agreement to close the orange roughy fishing grounds in international waters south of Australia today.

“There was no prior warning or consultation with New Zealand business interests, which we expect from an open Government who has New Zealander’s interests as paramount,” said chief executive of the deepwater group of companies, George Clement.  It is totally unacceptable for Government to take such actions without stakeholder consultation.

“New Zealand companies were first to the table with Australian interests in 1997.  We supported the introduction of catch limits and sustainable management practices here over the past decade.  The fishery is only very small and New Zealand companies have not been involved for the past five years.  However, exclusion without consultation sets a bad precedent.”

As a matter of principle, all New Zealanders expect a dialogue with our Government when they propose actions that fetter the rights of New Zealanders on the international stage, Mr Clement said.

“We will be interested in how the New Zealand and Australian Governments propose to manage these international waters to ensure other nations don’t continue to fish here – without universal controls this could turn out to be a hollow gesture.”

Orange roughy fisheries have provided a rich ground for emotional not rational responses in fisheries management - often generating more heat than light, Mr Clement said.  He said that non-fact based perceptions about Orange Roughy was endangering sensible decision-making.

“There have been many instances of industry urging the Government to take a more cautious line and we will always argue in favour of facts rather than emotions when it comes to development of policy or regulations,” Mr Clement said.

“Kiwis shouldn’t be overcome by doomsday fears and scaremongering like the Y2K bug panic.  We need to pause and closely look at the facts and build a secure economic basis for New Zealand based on sustainable food production, including orange roughy and other seafoods.  The facts support this as an achievable outcome – closed minds and closed fisheries lead to closed futures.”