In 2017 the industry made a Promise to the people of New Zealand to lift its performance and developed a six-point Code of Conduct to abide by.
Executive chairman of Seafood New Zealand, Craig Ellison, presented his appraisal of the industry at the Seafood Industry Conference at Te Papa today.
“Last year there was dismay about how hard I judged the industry - but after reflection most agreed with the tenor of the report card; that we were trying to improve our performance to align with our Code - but that we had some distance to go,” said Ellison.
The industry was given a C grade for the number of prosecutions but Mr Ellison said the industry was getting much better at condemning those who contravened the Code.
“Encouragingly, the past practise of turning a blind eye to transgressions is really reducing,” he said.
Improvements were seen in engagement with others including industry participation on ecosystem-based management of the ocean.
Mr Ellison said the industry was doing a lot of good work on minimising its impacts on the environment, including seabird mitigation plans and a National Plan of Action for seabirds. He said observed seabird captures were down; “The latest data shows captures in 2014/15 were close to half those in 2002/03.”
However he said the Black Petrel and the Antipodean albatross were both in trouble, due to a number of factors, and he would leave the grade at a solid B.
Investment in science and innovation had a stellar year with Sanford’s investment in ActiVLayr skincare technology, King Salmon’s research into converting by-product into high value brands, Sealord’s Acoustic Optical System, the MPI and Sanford SpatNZ hatchery, and DeepWater Group’s investment in sea lion pup mortality. Mr Ellison marked science and innovation a B, up from a C-plus in 2017.
The industry’s treatment of its people moved from a C-minus grade in 2017 to a C-plus this year with Maritime New Zealand reporting that there were 90 commercial fishing vessel events in 2017, of which 36 involved harm but this is well down on the long-term average for the sector.
“I think we can be proud of how we have continued to address worker safety and well-being.”
Accountability for delivering on The Promise and supporting increased transparency moved from B-minus in 2017 to B in 2018.
“The 2018 port visit campaign presented the code of conduct to fishermen at 15 locations over five months, the development of the OpenSeas website was doing a great job of informing overseas customers about the sustainability and provenance of our seafood, research showed public trust had improved in the industry and we responded to concerns about leaked documents around risk assessments in a professional and forthright manner,” said Ellison.
He said while the debate was ongoing over cameras on vessels, digital monitoring in the over 28 metre fleet was in place – recording catch through e-logbooks and recording position through geo-spatial monitoring – and the rest of the fleet will have digital monitoring in place by the end of 2018.
“We promised that the Code of Conduct would not gather dust. We promised that we would be judged against it publicly and we have kept that promise. We do not resile from our commitment to do all we can to improve this industry and increase trust in our management of this shared resource,” said Ellison.