SEVERAL New Zealand seafood companies have filed proceedings in the country’s High Court in response to the government’s unilateral move to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary without recognising existing rights. They say the move is contrary to international obligations.
New Zealand Fishing Industry Association (FIA) president Steve Bishop said: ‘The companies fully support marine conservation, it is inherent in their businesses, but any new measures must be taken with full considered consultation with all affected stakeholders. This has yet to occur with the Kermadecs proposal.’
The Kermadec is a large sub-tropical island area in the South Pacific situated about 550 miles north east of New Zealand’s North Island. It includes a nature reserve and can only be visited with a government permit.
The action, led by the association, has been filed by Solander Maritime, Sanford, Talley’s Group, Independent Fisheries, Aotearoa Fisheries, KPF Investments (United), Vela Fishing, Pupuri Taonga (Sealord) and Ngai Tahu Seafood Resources, representing around 80 per cent of the country’s fishing quota.
This is the second legal challenge to the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. It follows action lodged in the High Court in late March by the Maori fisheries body, Te Ohu Kaimoana, based on concerns that the proposal breaches the 1992 Deed of Settlement between Maori and the Crown.
The companies want the government to recognise that the proposed Bill will undermine the integrity of New Zealand’s 30-year-old Quota Management System and the Maori Fisheries Settlement Act.
Bishop said the companies were concerned that the government has been improperly advised, particularly on New Zealand’s international obligations, under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He maintained that the New Zealand seafood industry had demonstrated its commitment to conservation, particularly around the Kermadecs.
In response to a seafood industry proposal in 2006, the government closed 17 areas to bottom trawling within New Zealand’s economic zone, including the entire 200-mile zone around the Kermadecs.
These marine protected areas were also internationally recognised for their contribution to global biodiversity protection.
‘Industry remains strongly committed to effective marine conservation, and the internationally recognised measures currently in place.
‘Unfortunately, there are serious concerns around the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary due to the poor advice provided to government, lack of consultation and engagement and the unintended consequences.
‘This is counter-intuitive to the objective we are all essentially seeking – marine conservation.’