MUNZ and ITF Welcome Government Decision To Reflag Foreign Fishing Vessels

The Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) have welcomed the Government's announcement that foreign charter fishing vessels working in New Zealand waters will have to be reflagged under the New Zealand flag.

MUNZ General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says this will mean that fishing vessels catching New Zealand quota will have to fully comply with New Zealand employment, health and safety, and labour laws, once the policy comes into force.

Mr Fleetwood says the moves can't come soon enough, and the four year transition period announced was overly generous.

He says he hopes that no exemptions will be given at the end of the four year period to any foreign flagged vessels.

"Given the string of fishery breaches, labour abuses and harm to crew members experienced in recent years, we must ensure that the industry is policed over the transition period."

The Maritime Union has spent many years calling for stronger regulation of the fishing industry, and through its affiliation to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has assisted many foreign crew members in distress who have been victims of unethical and sometimes illegal practices.

The situation had now got to the point where New Zealand's reputation was in jeopardy with some of our biggest trading partners, including the United States.

Mr Fleetwood says the Maritime Union would also like to see some specific measures to give young New Zealand workers an opportunity to work in our fishing industry.

Jon Whitlow, secretary of the ITF fisheries section, described the move as "welcome, right and overdue." 

"Scandal has followed scandal in this area in recent years, including grave instances of crew abuse. We congratulate MUNZ and all those who pushed for this reform."