Church helped convince Govt crack down on foreign fishing vessels

In a crackdown to stamp out unsafe and, at times, inhumane labour practices, all foreign fishing vessels must now be reflagged with the New Zealand flag.

This legislation is the first of its kind in the world.

It makes New Zealand a world leader in addressing this global problem said the national director of the Apostolate of the Sea (AoS) in New Zealand, Father Jeff Drane.

He says Fr Bruno Ciceri, a representative of the Apostleship of the Sea International at the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the work of AoS, has helped to convince the New Zealand Government of the need for such legislation.

Ciceri has written a book, with Alistair Couper and Hance Smith, Fishers and Plunderers: Theft, Slavery and Violence at Sea.

The situation globally

“Because AoS is a widespread global apostolate we have to address the serious issues of fisheries globally,” Drane said:

  • Fishermen are underpaid and exploited
  • They are subject to physical and sexual abuse
  • They work onboard rusty and unsafe fishing vessels
  • Fishing vessels fly under flags of convenience
  • With no adherence to the law of that country, these fishing vessels exploit the fish stocks
  • The indiscriminate taking of fish stocks amounts to theft from properly registered and controlled fishing businesses and, more importantly, theft of fish resources from indigenous peoples.

The AoS and the Catholic Church globally are active in addressing these issues.

In June AoS South Asia is organising a global Fisheries conference in Bangkok and another next year in Taiwan.

AoSNZ delegates will be attending both conferences with a view to actions we are able to take.

The situation in New Zealand

In New Zealand reports of crews being beaten and forced to work for minimal pay, and for days without rest, have not been uncommon in recent years.

A New Zealand joint ministerial inquiry in 2012 found Korean fishing charters were damaging New Zealand’s international reputation.

In August 2010, the 38-year-old Korean fishing boat Oyang 70 sank in calm conditions off the coast of Otago. Six men died.

The captain had refused to cut loose an enormous 120-tonne catch, causing the ship to roll and sink as the haul was brought in.

In 2011, all 32 Indonesian crew on the Korean Oyang 75 walked off the ship alleging sexual and physical abuse.

The ship would later face 26 charges of dumping fish.

Its sister ship, the Oyang 77, had eight charges of illegally dumping fish overboard laid against it.

Both were owned by Korea’s largest fishing company, Sajo Oyang.

Nine vessels so far had been reflagged, three were in the process of reflagging and could not fish in New Zealand waters until they had.

About nine had decided not to fish in New Zealand waters, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said.


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