New Zealand fisheries shame

The tuna that you eat might look good and taste good. But is the story of how it got to your plate nearly as good?

Not likely, as a Stuff investigation (see story of Tunago 61)into employment practices on ships fishing in New Zealand waters has found out. It would appear that even a decade after even more tragic events took place on the high seas off the east coast of the South Island that much is still to be learnt by the companies fishing in New Zealand waters.

In the early part of this decade trawlers operating out of Lyttelton were found to have almost slave like working conditions on board. The range of criminal offences ranged from sexual and physical assault to dishonesty about what was caught and how much, as well as dumping excess and non-compliance with an arrest order that was supposed to have one trawler tied up at port.

The trawlers involved were F.C.V.’s which were operated by Sajo Oyang Corporation from South Korea. They were under the command of Korean officers and often had an Indonesian crew. The captain of Oyang 75 was charged with a range of offences that took place on the ship that was under his command. During the trial period his ship put to sea in breach of the arrest order that was held against it. Fortunately a Royal New Zealand Navy ship was on exercises off the coast, spotted the ship and rearrested it.

Less fortunate was Oyang 70 which sank in stormy weather in the Southern Ocean taking three crew to the bottom with three more found dead in their life-jackets. An inquiry into what happened on Oyang 70 would find appalling work conditions contrary to what the crew who survived had been led to believe they would get.

At the time of the 2013 findings, a Bill of Parliament was before the House of Representatives to consider the necessity of flagging all fishing vessels with the New Zealand flag. Under maritime law, this would have made the crews of these ships immediately answerable to New Zealand authorities. The Bill of Parliament became an Act of Parliament in 2014.

I had hoped that the Foreign Chartered Vessel scandal of slave ships working the high seas off the coast of New Zealand was in a bygone era. However two articles of late have me second guessing myself

And then there is this. An investigation by Stuff into the tragic case of Tunago 61 and the deaths of two Indonesians on Fu Tzu Chiun, a long liner trawler that sailed from Taiwan, set against a grim backdrop of near certain slavery going on ships that have sailed from non-New Zealand ports, but which operate in New Zealand waters.

So, just ask yourself again:

Is that lovely tuna you are tucking into – or any other fish caugh commercially in New Zealand waters – the result of legitimate fishing activities, or the work of modern day slaves?

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