“Fishy Goings On” in the New Zealand Fishing Industry
- by Chas Muir
Chas Muir is the Strategic Industry Lead Food Sector Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota
The New Zealand fishing industry promised to create employment for New Zealand workers, in particular there was to be a process of positive discrimination re Maori workers in relation of the purchase of Sealord as part of the Treaty settlement. It was quoted that this purchase would create 800 jobs and provide career pathing and management training for young Maori but in reality this simply did not happen. In the last three years Sealord has terminated about 700 workers employed on land and sea and these workers have been replaced by foreign labour!
What Has Gone Wrong?
Prior to the quota system being introduced foreign fishing vessels were fishing our waters and pillaging resource without any accountability. Companies were allocated “quotas” as a tool to ensure the management of sustainable harvesting of our fish stocks in the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone which is the fourth biggest in the world. If it was left uncontrolled foreign companies would have continued to exploit our resource and we would have had no fishery in a very short period of time. The other significant issue was the inability of the industry to work cooperatively in an effort to maximise returns which is still the case today.
As these companies strove for a greater dollar return they turned on their workers. Major companies have sacked New Zealand workers in land-based processing facilities and crews on vessels, to make way for joint venture boats that employ foreign labour on poverty wages. The problem is that we now have the major fishing companies repeating the mistakes of the past. In particular, the use of foreign-owned and crewed, joint-owned or chartered vessels fishing New Zealand waters. Many have been caught out exceeding their quotas, but doubtlessly many more slip through undetected.
The industry has no respect or interest in the long term viability of the fishery and they are simply looking to maximise the dollar return now. One of the big issues to be determined is who owns the fish? The quota holders believe they do, however we are firmly of the view that all New Zealanders do and that the Government is charged with the responsibility to look after and manage the fishery on behalf of all of us. This is done through the Quota Management System and an annual review of what amount of quota can be taken for each species in each year.
Since the year 2000 the New Zealand economy has lost $3 billion in potential revenue because of the loss of jobs of New Zealand workers in the fishing industry and the fact that joint venture or charter companies and their crew don’t pay taxes or contribute to the New Zealand economy in any way. We still have the resources and skills to return this industry to one that can offer employment to New Zealand workers as a priority and to ensure that it is New Zealand skippers and crew managing the quota and fishing practices in the best interest of New Zealand. It is clear that the current situation is totally unacceptable and that the industry is at a crossroads in failing to deal with local and international issues associated with the harvesting and processing our seafood, and that a Parliamentary review is well overdue.
To this end the Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota has initiated a petition to the House of Representatives: “Requesting the House of Representatives conduct an inquiry into the New Zealand Fishing Industry’s relationship with foreign fishing companies, foreign crewing of Joint Ventures, chartered and New Zealand fishing vessels, and its effects on sustainable fishing, employment, and the relevant communities within New Zealand”. We have the political support of the Labour, Green, and Maori parties and have in excess of 11,000 names on the petition to date. We propose to present this petition to Parliament in the near future.
Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2008.
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