Media Release

Foreign chartered fishing vessels make valuable contribution to Maori economy

17 October 2011

The use of foreign fishing vessels chartered to work in New Zealand’s deepwater fishery make a valuable contribution to the iwi economy, Te Ohu Kaimoana (Maori Fisheries Trust) told a Ministerial Inquiry panel in Wellington today.

The inquiry is looking into the New Zealand fishing industry’s use of foreign charter vessels (FCVs) in the deepwater fishery after allegations were made about working conditions and wages aboard the vessels.

Te Ohu Kaimoana said 57 iwi organisations around the country were recipients of fisheries quota through major settlements with the Crown in 1989 and 1992.

“The use of FCVs allows iwi organisations to make rational decisions on the best options for extracting value from their quota within the regulatory framework to achieve long-term sustainability and stability. If there has been non-compliance, then it is for the appropriate agencies to deal with the matters,” Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Executive, Peter Douglas, said today.

Mr Douglas told the panel that for high-volume, low value species such as Squid, Barracouta, Jack Mackerel, Southern Blue Whiting and others, all quota owners – Maori and non-Maori – utilised FCVs to harvest the catch. The scenario was the opposite for high-value species, most of which is generally caught by New Zealand-owned vessels.

“The majority of iwi are at the low end of the spectrum of quota ownership. If larger fishing companies already involved in harvesting and processing find that it is uneconomic to fish the lower-value, high-volume deepwater stocks, it is difficult to see how iwi quota holders could be expected to do so with their smaller parcels of quota,” Mr Douglas said.

A review undertaken by Te Ohu Kaimoana of the amounts of fish harvested by FCVs, either through joint venture arrangements, long-term ACE contracts or annual tender processes, demonstrates that only a minor share of the Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for FCV target species was from iwi-owned settlement quota.

Over the last five years, the average maximum amount of settlement quota that could have been fished by FCVs was 17 percent of the total TACC. “Maori-owned quota represents only a small proportion of the overall catch taken from FCVs,” Mr Douglas said.

Mr Douglas added that removing the use of FCVs in the fishing industry would reduce the competition for ACE or Annual Catch Entitlements, which would have the result of driving down returns on investment. ACE prices would be negatively affected if iwi had no option but to purchase more expensive catching capacity. Similarly, where companies calculate that purchasing additional catching capacity was uneconomic, it is highly likely that some species would not be fished, and the relevant ACE and quota values would be worth little.

Mr Douglas told the panel that unsubstantiated allegations in the media about FCVs keeping fishers in “slave labour” conditions, combined with assertions that Maori interests are a major cause of the “problem”, was not accepted by iwi organisations who consider the allegations unjustified and unfair. He added that, as far as he was aware, the allegations that have been raised in relation to FCVs have been or are in the process of being investigated.

Download table showing the maximum possible amount of Maori quota fished by FCVs here.

A copy of Te Ohu Kaimoana’s submission can be found here. | media releases