Since the industry first produced a code of conduct in 2017, the document has been used to assess the sector’s performance on an annual basis.
Today, at the Seafood New Zealand conference in Queenstown, Ellison concluded the sector still had work to do in some areas but was winning on sustainability.
The first point on the code is that the industry does not condone illegal behaviour. Ellison said, while the industry welcomed the sentencing of fish thieves Hawke’s Bay Seafood and offered up a strong affidavit to the court condemning their behaviour the industry needed to message that stance more publicly. However, there was good news around transparency with a large number of vessels transitioning in electronic reporting. This was scored C plus – up from a C in 2018.
On point two of the code, which is ensuring fisheries resources are sustainable Ellison said this had been a strong focus for the industry with 95 percent of all landed fish verified as sustainable, which moved the score from a B plus to an A minus.
Point three of the code is around minimising the industry’s footprint on the marine environment and this was another area of concern with too many protected species captures. Ellison said while huge work was being done in this space, zero interactions must be the industry’s target. For that reason, the score moved downward slightly from a B in 2018 to a B minus in 2019.
Investment in science and innovation improved from a B to a B plus with significant investments through Seafood Innovations Limited and the rollout of the revolutionary trawl technology Precision Seafood Harvesting (PSH).
Looking after our people, which is point five on the code also slipped down the rankings. Ellison said zero harm to our people must be the target. Despite some great initiatives including instigation of the Living Wage is some workplaces, the ‘Safe Crews Fish More’ campaign and a win against shark cage diving to make our people safer, the industry slipped from a C plus to a D.
The last point of the code is living up to the promise the industry made and supporting increased transparency. Observer rates on vessels remained high and an increasing number of vessels have moved to cameras, however Ellison said this was only enough to retain last year’s grade of B.
Ellison concluded by noting that 2019 had been a difficult year, but said an honest critiquing of the industry’s performance each year would lead to positive change.
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