New Zealand endangered-sea-life footage sparks debate

Published: January 21, 2018 16:32:32 | Updated: January 22, 2018 13:09:39

Photo: BBC

New Zealand's fishing industry has found itself at odds with conservationists over whether or not the public should be allowed to see the realities of commercial fishing.

In the waters around New Zealand - as many countries - animals including sea birds, dolphins, penguins and sea lions are routinely ending up in commercial fishing nets along with the intended catch.

In an attempt to better measure the impact of this "bycatch" on endangered wildlife, the government has started tighter monitoring, and as part of that, is proposing putting security cameras on boats.

The fisheries do not deny there is bycatch and that endangered animals do fall victim.

But what should happen to the footage from these cameras has generated a debate.

The industry says it should be withheld from the public, fearing it might be misunderstood, or misused as propaganda.

But this, say conservationists, is an attempt to hide the impact of commercial fishing on endangered species. They say the public should know if the likes of the small New Zealand native Hector's dolphin are falling victim to the fisheries, reports BBC.

Under existing rules, fishing vessels only occasionally have observers onboard to log and report the cases. On all other vessels, the fishing company itself is responsible for logging the bycatch.

Kevin Hague, chief executive of conservationist group Forest & Bird, says that last year "there were 14 penguins that were reported as having been killed in the inshore set net industry".

"Now, 13 of those birds were killed on boats that had observers from the Ministry of Primary Industries and only one occurred in the 97% of the fishing fleet that didn't have observers.

"That really strongly suggests that the fishing industry is covering up literally hundreds of deaths of penguins," he alleges.

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