A principled decision

David Carter and Kate Wilkinson have announced:

The Government today announced it is to require reflagging of foreign-owned fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters to address labour, safety and practice concerns.

Primary Industries Minister David Carter and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson say foreign-flagged fishing vessels will no longer be able to legally operate in New Zealand waters after a four-year transition period.

“The Government’s decision sends a clear message that New Zealand is serious about the fair treatment of fishing crews, the safety of vessels and its international reputation for ethical and sustainable fishing practices,” say the Ministers.

After years of abuses onboard ships operating in our EEZ, it is great to see this Government take such a strong step to stamp it out. As I have blogged about on many previous occasions, the conditions on board some ships were tantamount to slavery and sexual abuse.

This will have some economic impact on New Zealand. But if the Government did not act, the economic impact may have been greater in the long term as I think we could have faced boycotts of NZ fisheries from stores and chains in the US. But this was not just an economic issue. We can’t control how workers are paid and treated around the world. But we can and should take responsibility for what happens in our EEZ on board ships fishing NZ quota. Slavery in NZ waters is repugnant to Kiwis.

Not all foreign-flagged vessels were acting in such a barbaric way. I understand the Ukranian ships used by Sealord had no significant problems. It was mainly the Korean ships with Indonesian sailors, used by other companies. But also worth noting that such vessels can still fish here with a foreign crew. However they must be NZ flagged. The significance of this is that NZ law then applies on board them.

Under the current regime, the FCVs were contractually bound to apply NZ minimum wage laws, but some vessels got around this by having a fake set of books.  And any complaints of rape or sexual abuse could not be investigated by NZ law enforcement.

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